French linebacker Digaan Gomis wasted no opportunity en route to Tropical Bowl All-Star game

Author H. Jackson Brown once wrote that nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. If that is the case, then Digaan Gomis has made it his life’s philosophy to never pay out of pocket.

The French linebacker was once a talented soccer player, competing with and against athletes who would go on to sign contracts with major European professional teams. Gomis did not, failing to maximize his athletic gifts. When he picked up a new sport at the age of 19, he decided this time would be different.

“I wish I could’ve made it to the professional level with soccer, but I wasn’t serious, and I wasn’t conscious about opportunities,” Gomis explains. “When I started playing football, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. I told myself to take advantage of all the opportunities I can.”

What began as a temporary activity to appease his mother quickly became a passion, one with many more opportunities than he could have initially imagined. The latest, and perhaps greatest, came just last week in Orlando, Florida, at the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl.

Since 2016, the annual all-star game for draft eligible prospects has had over 350 past participants move on to the NFL. This year, the event partnered with All22 – The Global Scouting Network to reserve two spots for international college athletes and after an exhaustive search by the newly launched organization, Gomis was selected.

Competing alongside some of college football’s best players, Gomis was the only European. More than that, he was the only player to come from a school outside the United States.

LB Digaan Gomis watches the action at the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl

That was the first major opportunity that the linebacker seized in his football career, traveling to Canada after just a few short years with the Templiers d’Élancourt of Paris to play at the Cégep de Thetford, roughly the equivalent to American JuCo in the francophone province of Quebec. After one season there, he made the jump to Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, becoming a productive player at the U Sports level in Canadian university football.

The journey hasn’t always been easy, but Gomis swore not to waste his shot.

“In North America, you live, you sleep, you eat football. It’s an everyday thing and it was not like that in France. Everything was new for me. Even the food was new and I was far from my family. You have to adjust, but I knew I wasn’t there for nothing,” he recalls. “I had this opportunity, it was a great opportunity for me, and I didn’t want to lose it or do it for nothing. I kept fighting through the adversity.”

It paid off, as in 21 collegiate games he adapted quickly to the larger Canadian field to notch 73 career tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and a blocked kick. His ability to sort through traffic in the box caught the eyes of All22 scouts and earned him the chance to showcase his skills against NCAA Division 1 competition, certainly not an easy task.

“It was very new for me to have this amount of competition. Every player was good over there,” Gomis admits. “I experienced that when I played soccer in France, but since I’ve played football, I’ve never met competition like that. I had to adjust myself to the speed and again, it’s a different football. The field is smaller and with eleven players, it is not the same scheme, but it was great experience.”

By all accounts, the Frenchman did not look out of place, fitting in with the linebacking corps despite his unique international background. Come gameday, he was even able to earn his way on to the stat sheet with a pair of tackles, but Gomis was not willing to sit around patting himself on the back.

“For me, I always want to dominate and be the best player on the field. I didn’t do that, but I didn’t do bad either,” he says frankly. “I’m a little disappointed in myself, but it’s a part of the game and it was great competition. For me, it was really good.”

Digaan Gomis getting set to take down a ball carrier at the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl

Now that the Tropical Bowl opportunity has passed, it will all be about seizing the next one. More than 90 professional scouts from the NFL, CFL, XFL and USFL watched Gomis live in Florida and all are looking for international talents.

European players coming from U Sports have popped up across the pro football landscape in recent years, including Laval defensive back Souleymane Karamoko who was just selected for the NFL’s international player pathway program. Other Frenchmen like Maxime Rouyer, Valentin Gnahoua and Asnnel Robo have found their role as Globals in the CFL, while top ELF linebackers like Wael Nasri and Kadel King have also followed a similar path to Gomis.

In university, he has been as good or better than many of them and he’s now proven capable of playing alongside the very best. Currently Gomis is sorting out final credits towards his graduation from Bishop’s, a degree that could earn him valuable Canadian status in the CFL through new rules, but he isn’t stressed about his ultimate landing spot.

“I want to play professional here in Canada or the United States. Obviously, I have opportunities overseas as well. I can’t control all of that. All I can control is my training, so I will keep doing that and whatever happens, happens,” he says.

Wherever the best opportunity is, Digaan Gomis will be ready to jump on it. That you can guarantee.

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.