Former Queen’s football player Matt O’Donnell signed with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday morning.
O’Donnell was drafted to the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in May but skipped out on training camp last month. Instead, O’Donnell worked out with NBA teams like the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics.
“A few months ago I had to make a decision whether to take a chance on the NFL or to sign with the Roughriders,” O’Donnell said. “I definitely lost sleep for about a week … but eventually I came to the decision to wait on the NFL and hope for a team to pick me up."
The offensive lineman played for the Gaels for five years, including the 2009 season that saw Queen’s win the Vanier Cup. Last year, he played his final season with the team in 2010.
O’Donnell announced his move to the Bengals at a Tuesday press conference on campus.
“I’d definitely like to thank the Riders for drafting me,” O’Donnell said, adding that his backup plan would be to play with them.
The Bengals move to sign O’Donnell comes just days after an agreement between players and owners ended a five-month NFL lockout.
The jump from Canadian Interuniversity Sport to NFL football isn’t a regular occurrence, said his former Gaels coach Pat Sheahan.
“This is a great celebration for Queen’s,” Sheahan said. “We are now officially a football town.”