British DB Tigie Sankoh the player Toronto Argonauts were hoping for in 2021 CFL Global Draft

Selecting third overall in the 2021 CFL Global Draft, there was one player available that the Toronto Argonauts wanted more than any other, but there was no way to know if they were going to get him.

Anxiously they waited through the first two picks. When their time came, if it was possible to sprint in a virtual draft card, they would have.

Who was this special player that so captivated the oldest professional sports team in North America?

British safety Tigie Sankoh, of course.

“We thought he was the most pro-ready prospect in the draft to be able to come in and compete right away,” Vince Magri, the Argos Director of Canadian Scouting, told after the draft.

“We’ve seen him multiple times in person when he was with the Cleveland Browns. He’s played in a lot of pre-season games, he’s played multiple positions, he’s played well. He’s been in a pro environment in meeting rooms and practices. To us, he’s ready to hit the ground running and he wants to be here.”

Tigie Sankoh snagging an interception at Cleveland Browns 2019 training camp Photo: Joshua Gunter

When it comes to Global players, Sankoh is a bit of an anomaly. For one, the versatile defensive back picked up the game in the United States before going overseas, the reverse situation of many top prospects who seek out US prep schools for their final years of secondary school.

Born in Sierra Leone, Sankoh spent a chunk of his childhood in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Baltimore, being raised by his aunt while his parents secured the means to support him in England. He started playing football in the seventh grade but at the age of 15, his parents made the decision to finally bring him across the pond.

Not wanting to give up the sport he had only recently found, Sankoh searched the internet for teams in the UK and found one in the Kent Exiles. He jumped to the South London Renegades a year later and, like so many other top international talents, caught the eye of current Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde, who connected him to the London Warriors and eventually the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.

In a 2018 IPP class that included Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata, tight end Moritz Bohringer and fellow CFL first rounder Chris Ezeala, Sankoh earned a spot on the practice roster with the Cleveland Browns, where he remained for two seasons.

“I got to go to the team when they were a real process and they brought in a lot of good talent that I got to go up against every day in practice, so I feel like that helped me a lot,” Sankoh told reporters after the draft.

Though he never saw regular season action, Sankoh’s final preseason with the Browns showed tremendous promise. In 80 snaps at safety he recorded five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. For the Argos, he demonstrated the skillset required to excel in multiple spots on their defense.

“One of the most intriguing things about him is that he’s played multiple positions on the back end. He’s played safety, he’s played in the box, he’s played in an overhang position, so he does have the flexibility to do multiple things,” Magri said. “On top of that, he has the athleticism to be able to be put in those spots and let him find his best position.”

Tigie Sankoh tackling Buffalo Bills Logan Thomas Photo: Joe Robbins Getty Images

While he is sure to contribute early on special teams, the first Global defensive player off the board could work at free safety or in the CFL’s unique SAM linebacker position, playing a role somewhere between a box safety and nickel corner. In Sankoh’s eyes, it doesn’t matter where he plays.

“I feel like I’m a jack of all trades. I can play safety or linebacker. I feel like if you put me on the d-line, I can get you a sack too,” he said without a hint of sarcasm.

While the versatile defensive back is fully committed to the CFL, Sankoh may have to wait before making his way to Canada. The three down league is expected to delay the start of their 2021 season until later in the summer but Sankoh will be staying ready.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing for a little bit,” he noted coolly. “I’ve just been working out so I’m just going to keep doing that until I get a call tell me to come up.”

When that finally happens, the apple of the Argos‘ eye could be among the most impactful Global players of the upcoming CFL season.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.