Mexican WR Andres Salgado working hard for a bigger role with Calgary Stampeders

By Austin Owens, CFL.ca, @_AUSTINOWENS

Mexican receiver Andres Salgado had a chance to experience the Canadian game for the first time in 2019 during his rookie campaign with the Calgary Stampeders.

The global worked on a new portion of his game in his first season, working on special teams for Dave Dickenson’s squad. But this off-season, he’s been honing his craft to be the best player he can be.

“I want to try and play more receiver and get opportunities, but I also want to position myself as a star on special teams,” he said. “Whether it’s punt return, kick return or kick-off, you have to be better and that’s the easiest way to step on the field and to be a huge part of the game plan.

“That’s something I’ve been working on the entire off-season while also improving myself as a receiver and a route runner. I know I’m not the best athlete or the most explosive or the fastest, but just working on small details like where I should be on the field and the depth of my route or just being in the right place at the right time. That’s just what I’m trying to do to become more consistent and someone that can be relied on.”

Calgary Stampeders WR Andres Dalgado leads teammates out of tunnel carrying Stampeders flag Photo: Stampeders.com

Salgado had cemented himself as one of the best receivers Mexico’s LFA had to offer during his time in the league.

The 28-year-old played his collegiate career with the UNAM Pumas, but during his time in school, he also played in the top Mexican flight of gridiron football, Condors CDMX in 2016.

He finished the 2019 LFA season with 31 catches for 586 yards on the year while finishing with a league-best 18.9 yards per catch.

With the CFL 2.0 initiative coming to fruition, there was a chance for Salgado and other members of the LFA to make the jump to the CFL for the 2019 campaign.

“I saw that this was a great life opportunity,” Salgado said of the decision to venture north. “Besides playing football, I just like the possibility of making my life here. It’s a better opportunity for me here compared to Mexico just because of the quality of life that you have here.

“There are 1.6 million people in Calgary and we have 28 million people in Mexico. So there are more opportunities here and I just welcomed and embraced the challenge.”

Salgado didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called in the inaugural CFL-LFA Draft, as the Stampeders scooped him up with the ninth overall pick.

Before heading to training camp with the Stamps, Salgado played for the Condors in the Mexico Bowl — the LFA’s championship game. He had a 44-yard touchdown which capped off a tremendous campaign.

His first season in the CFL was used as more of a learning experience. He suited up in 15 games for the team this past season, serving almost exclusively on special teams.

He had the chance to experience a playoff run with Calgary, as they were battling for the West Division crown right to the end, but they wound up hosting the Western Semi-Final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

His first season was a successful one, and despite coming to a new country without a support system, his new football family rallied around him and made Calgary feel like home.

“I started to see it in the middle point of the season. Every player, every staff member and every trainer welcomes you with their arms open,” Salgado said. “It was just a blessing, week in and week out, to build that relationship with everyone.”

Rather than heading back to his home country, Salgado decided to stick around in Calgary. He’s had a chance to get used to the climate in the city during the home stretch of the season — he and teammates even had a snowball fight on the street during the first snowfall of the year. But he experienced his first winter in Canada and got through it without issue.

“There was one week where we hit minus-38, but other than that, it was pretty calm,” Salgado said. “At some points, it was even warm. I have some friends in Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg and for two straight months, it was like minus-30.

“I would just be like, ‘Nah, there’s no way we’re doing this. We’re going back to Mexico.’ I’ve also come to learn that Calgary has the chinook which makes it a little warmer. So it was not that bad at all, I thought it was going to be way worse.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Stampeders took a proactive approach with their players, allowing them to get some weights and other equipment from the team gym in order to stay in shape during their time away.

In order to get ready for the 2020 season, Salgado has been working out with teammates and picking up little things to help bring his game to the next level.

“When everything was normal, I was training with Hergy (Mayala), Colton (Hunchak) and Michael Klukas. And now, we’re training a little bit with Nick Statz,” Salgado said. “Just being able to create that brotherhood is just a huge blessing and we’re going to try and keep developing and going out with Bo (Levi Mitchell) and some other players.”

Salgado’s sights are unsurprisingly set on trying to earn a bigger role in the Stamps in 2020. He was able to be a part of the original crop of global players welcomed into the CFL but now, there are even more opportunities for players from around the globe.

Last season, teams were required to dress one global player while having the ability to have up to two extra individuals on the practice roster. In 2020, that will expand, as teams will have to dress two global players and can have up to three on the practice squad.

With a new set of players from around the world chomping at the bit to get their opportunity, it provides even more competition for Salgado heading into his second year.

“I think the competition for the global spots is going to increase and I like that. I like the challenge and I love competing against top guys,” Salgado said. “It’s just going to be a huge increase to the competition and I’ve just got to be better, especially on special teams. That’s like my main focus now.

“I know I can play receiver. I’ve talked to Dave and last season Pete (Costanza) and they both told me I could play, I just had to be consistent and learn my stuff, which is what I’ve been doing and what I did last year. My main focus has just been to be better on special teams. That’s just the main thing to be active on game days is to be a major part and a major contributor on special teams.”

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