Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed top Global draft pick Chris Ezeala

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders have beefed up their Global content coming out of a Week 4 bye, signing German fullback Chris Ezeala to the team’s practice roster.

The Riders originally drafted Ezeala with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 CFL Global Draft, but the 25-year old opted to stay in Europe for the start of the Canadian season to be present for the birth of his first child. Now a new father, he joins the CFL’s lone remaining unbeaten team and has already begun practicing after completing his quarantine requirements last week.

The 6-foot, 251-pound prospect hasn’t been idle while waiting to go to Canada, playing two games with the European League of Football’s Cologne Centurions. Ezeala contributed in all three phases, carrying four times for 10 yards and catching one 10-yard touchdown on offense, making six tackles, three tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks on defense, while also punting eight times for an average of 42.25 yards per kick.

Prior to being drafted into the CFL, Ezeala spent two years on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. Initially assigned to the team in 2018, Ezeala was brought back for the 2019 season but did not receive a third contract. In eight NFL preseason games, he saw action on 100 snaps as a lead blocker and special teamer, recording one tackle.

Born in Munich, Ezeala began playing football as a 13-year old for the Munchen Rangers before breaking into the GFL ranks with the Allgau Comets in 2015. In three GFL seasons, two with the Comets and one with the Ingolstadt DukesEzeala played primarily linebacker, racking up 205 tackles, 50 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.

Ezeala’s potential as a running back wasn’t realized until his final GFL season in 2017, when he carried the ball for the Dukes 17 times for 206 yards and a touchdown, producing an eye-popping 12.1 yards per carry. His accomplishments caught the eye of current Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and Ezeala was converted to an NFL fullback under the tutelage of two-time Pro Bowler Earnest Byner.

A late addition to the Riders’ roster, Ezeala will have a steep learning curve to get up to speed with his new team. He’ll get time to get caught up on the practice roster, but there is no question that Saskatchewan wants to get him on the gameday roster as soon as possible.

The club is required to dress one Global player per game based on CFL rules, a spot that is currently being held by South African kicker John Henry Nell. With Canadians Brett Lauther and Jon Ryan entrenched as placekicker and punter respectively, Nell has been responsible for little more than running the kicking tee onto the field. That has been a wasted roster spot in a league that already operates with a short bench, meaning the prospect of Ezeala stepping in as a special teams contributor is one the Riders need to happen as soon as possible.

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.