Thiadric Hansen was working as a school bus driver back home in Flensburg, Germany when he got a phone call he never expected to receive.
It was his coach from the German Football League, telling him the Canadian Football League wanted to invite him to its scouting combine.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Hansen said Thursday at Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie camp. “Actually I thought he was joking but he said it was real. As soon as I got home, I went to the gym and started getting in shape. Now I’m here.”
Not only did Hansen perform well at the combine in Toronto in March, he was also selected by the Bombers in the CFL’s first European player draft.
Two months later, the 26-year-old linebacker is on the field in Winnipeg, competing for a job under the league’s new global initiative known as CFL 2.0.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hansen said. “I actually thought that last year was my last year of football. I had a friend of mine tell me to do another year and I said ‘All right’ and it worked out right now. It’s amazing to have an opportunity to compete and get a job like this.”
Hansen is one of four global players in Bombers rookie camp. The other three — defensive back Sergio Schiaffino Perez, linebacker Manuel Hernandez-Reyes and kicker Gabriel Amavizca Ortiz — came to the Bombers through the Mexican draft.
Hansen admitted his first taste of the CFL, on Wednesday, opened his eyes.
“It was a little bit of a wake-up call because the practice was so fast, the players are so fast and the pace was so hard,” Hansen said. “I’m already getting a little more comfortable.”
Under the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players, which is currently in the ratification stage, teams will reportedly have a roster spot reserved this season for one global player. Next year, it will be two global players.
That means one of these four players in rookie camp is going to make the team and many believe Hansen has the inside track.
“Yeah it gives me an opportunity,” he said. “I first heard it today. But I’m not trying to focus on that. I’m here to compete with all the linebackers at my spot and all the special teams players. I don’t want to be on a roster just because there’s an extra global spot. I’m just trying to go and make the team, regardless.”
Bombers coach Mike O’Shea is impressed by the global players, not necessarily because of their performance, but because of what their addition means to the CFL.
“I think, like any player, it’s a little early (to evaluate them). I’ll say this: They all come with a few attributes that allow them to be out here and allow them to compete and not feel out of place. They’re all self-aware, they understand that the speed of the game is a little different and they understand that there’s things they need to work on. They’re all prepared to do that. They’re a pleasure to coach. They learn quickly. If there’s any language barrier, it’s not in football. They speak the football language because they’ve been in the game for a number of years. It’s been a great experience.
“These guys are good for the room too because you get a lot of diversity in that room.”