How Spanish DL Alejandro Fernandez grew into an All Star

By Chris O’Leary, Senior Writer

Football has always sold itself as being a game for everyone. Growing up in Madrid, Spain, Alejandro Fernandez may not have known that, but when he discovered the game at the age of 12, it’s what pulled him in.

“It’s not in the schools, they play in clubs,” Fernandez recalled shortly after arriving in Edmonton for the CFL Combine presented by New Era.

“One of my neighbors, a close friend used to bring me by for football practice. One day I was on the football field and he was with his teammates. I saw fat people. I was always a fat kid, a little bit overweight. For soccer, that’s not a good quality. Then I said, ‘OK I’m going to try because I looked like this.’ People were all sizes. Then I went to practice and I fell in love with football.”

Now 21, Fernandez has grown into his body (he stands almost six-foot-one and weighs 233 pounds) and he’s grown into an exceptional defensive lineman. After two seasons playing with the Barcelona Dragons of the European Football League, Fernandez was named a first-team All-Star in 2022. He had 40 total tackles (35 solo), 15.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception that he ran in for a 47-yard touchdown.

He’s hoping the next step in his football career is into the CFL. He’ll get some clarity on that dream on Tuesday, when the league’s Global Draft gets underway at 11 a.m. ET.

At first, Fernandez just loved the physicality of the game and like many kids, was just having fun getting out on the field in pads, hitting his friends. When he was 15, he was selected to Spain’s national team. Playing in an under-18 environment, his skill jumped up, he saw the players around him getting opportunities in European pro leagues and with colleges and he realized he could go that route, too.

Photo: Eric Ribé

While the pandemic disrupted his plans and the plans of many of his friends and teammates over the last couple of years, his strong season in the ELF has given him confidence about his ability to find a team to draft him and bring him into the world of Canadian football.

At the combine in Edmonton, Fernandez had the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among Global d-linemen (5.04 seconds), the seventh-highest vertical leap and second-best at his position (31 inches), the third-best broad jump for Global d-linemen (8, 11 3/4″), the seventh-best 3-cone drill (7.32 seconds) overall and the top showing at his position and the third best shuttle drill (4.28 seconds) amongst the Globals.


Just 21, Fernandez admitted going into the combine that physically he may not be on par with some of the more experienced and older players in Edmonton. His testing showed that he’s got speed and perhaps most important to evaluators at this time of year, upside. There would be a lot of time for a team to work with him, strengthen him up and turn him into an impact player for them.

In studying the CFL, Fernandez quickly discovered Thiadric Hansen, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive lineman and a trailblazer for the league’s Global initiative. The second overall pick in the 2019 Global Draft, Hansen worked his way into the Bombers’ special teams group and carved out a spot on the team’s defensive line as it asserted itself as the dominant force in the league. He’s won two Grey Cups as a Bomber and the team signed him to a new deal this winter, despite his ongoing recovery from a torn Achilles tendon.

Fernandez said he’d been checking in on Hansen that morning on his Instagram.

“He motivates me. Seeing a German guy…he’s way better than me right now but he motivates me. I see this guy, he’s there. I can (do it) too,” he said.

His arrival in Edmonton — a cool March day — was a suitable introduction to one of the challenges that playing in the CFL brings for all of its players. Despite coming from a warm place, Fernandez said he’s a fan of cold weather. More than anything, he sees an opportunity here, even if it comes through visible breath and frozen fingers at the end of the season.

“The Global program gives us an opportunity to play and go to the next level,” he said. “I want to prove I’m a real good football player.”

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