Hoping to be a global hit in CFL: Ottawa Redblacks Italian draft pick Jordan Bouah

By Tim Barnes, Postmedia

It’s not like it was Jordan Bouah’s childhood dream to play professional football. He’s only been playing the sport for four years.

Then, suddenly, on April 11, he became an Ottawa Redblack — selected eighth overall in the CFL’s first European Draft. The 24-year-old Bouah, who is from Rome and just finished his sophomore season at California’s Saddleback College, had previously played for the Gladiators of Rome and for the Italian national team.

“I started my football career in Italy, I played two years there,” explained Bouah, a 5-foot-11 receiver. “I decided to go all-in, move to California for two years. Now I’m here, in Ottawa … it’s incredible.

“I played basketball my whole life. I had a transitional period with basketball, there was a four-month gap where one of my friends suggested I try football. I tried it and really fell in love with it.”

And now, he’s in training camp in Ottawa — hoping despite his lack of experience he’ll stick with the Redblacks. Under the terms of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement (which should soon be ratified), each CFL team will protect one “global” player. For the Redblacks, it will come down to one of four players — Bouah or  Mexicans Maximiliano Soto (defensive lineman), Jose Maltos (kicker) and receiver Guillermo Villalobos (receiver).

Asked about the global players, Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said: “

They’re good. Speaking of the kicker, we got the second pick down in Mexico City and that was a big deal. He’s definitely a capable field goal kicker and we’ll keep working with him. The receivers really work hard. They’re very noticeable, they’re getting better. You can see them figuring things out and as they do, they become better players. Those guys will get some kind of look somehow in the pre-season.”

Jordan Bouah during the Ottawa Redblacks training camp that kicked off on Sunday at TD Place. ASHLEY FRASER / POSTMEDIA

Can Bouah play in the CFL?

“Absolutely, I can play,” said Bouah whose dad is African and lives in Dallas and whose mom is Italian.  “I wouldn’t leave my home if I didn’t think I could.”

Bouah was at the CFL Combine in Toronto in March, showcasing his talent for teams.

“It went pretty good, I was pretty happy,” he said. “I had high expectations of myself, but at the same time I was coming off an injury (ankle surgery in December) so I wasn’t in the best shape. It was just old injuries that had gotten worse with time — they cleaned my ankle up and it was great.”

Bouah, who was working in a pizza shop — Pizzeria Gustafa back in Rome — says he’s excited about the new opportunity, taking it up a few notches from playing for a club team in Rome and a college team in the U.S.

“(Going to college), it was incredible the way I developed,” he said. “I was used to practising to two days a week, then I was practising six days a week. It wasn’t easy, it was challenging. (Getting a training camp opportunity in Ottawa), I’m really enjoying the experience. It’s a very high level from what I’m used to. I’m studying the playbook, trying to learn everything.”

If all goes according to plan, it’ll be a much smoother ride than his trip to Ottawa before rookie camp last week. He had about a 30-hour journey here after fuel problems forced him to spend an unplanned stopover night in Dublin.

Read the original story in the Ottawa Citizen by Tim Barnes