Gaels go up a level

Football receivers Valberg and Ioannides sign CFL contracts

Receiver Scott Valberg is tackled after receiving a catch during the Gaels’ Yates Cup victory against the Western Mustangs on Nov. 14.
Image by: Tyler Ball
Receiver Scott Valberg is tackled after receiving a catch during the Gaels’ Yates Cup victory against the Western Mustangs on Nov. 14.

Two key offensive players from the football team’s Vanier Cup run were signed to CFL contracts yesterday.

All-Canadian receiver Scott Valberg, who had 78 catches in the regular season and playoffs last year, signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Inside receiver Chris Ioannides, who had 62 catches in the regular season and playoffs, signed with the B.C. Lions.

Valberg, who had two touchdowns in the Gaels’ Vanier Cup victory over the Calgary Dinos, said he’s looking forward to training camp in June, when he’ll try to crack the team roster.

“I think the immediate goal is … just to be there and get paid to do something that’s fun,” he said, adding that Queen’s plays a system similar to most CFL teams, which he thinks will help his chances.

Valberg spent five years at Queen’s and is the school’s second all-time leader in receiving yards (2,826), receiving touchdowns (21) and total receptions (453).

“It’s a nice feeling to be appreciated for all the hard work you’ve done,” he said.

Valberg said he’s excited to help Hamilton, who lost in the CFL semifinals last season.

“They’re an organization that’s pretty rich in tradition and has a good history of winning,” he said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help the team.”

Ioannides said he’s heard Lions head coach Wally Buono has a similar coaching style to Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan.

“They’re kind of old-school coaches, so they expect you to know your stuff and they’re not going to be pampering you. They have similar attitudes in general.”

Ioannides said he plans to contact Rob Bagg, the Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver who finished his career at Queen’s in 2008, for some advice.

Ioannides has one more year of CIS eligibility. He said if he doesn’t make the Lions’ roster, he might come back to finish his university football career. Bagg made the Roughriders in 2007 but elected to return to Queen’s.

“No matter what, I look forward to playing another year of football, either in the CFL or CIS.”

Ioannides, who made four key catches in the Vanier Cup game, said he thinks the Gaels’ national exposure helped his standing with professional teams.

Sheahan said the playoff run helped both players.

“They performed against the best players in the nation,” he said. “These guys were extremely good and they’re deserving of all the accolades.”

Sheahan said Valberg, the speedier receiver of the two and Ioannides, who mostly played at the tight end spot, were top choices for CFL teams.

“Both of them excelled at the roles that were defined for them at Queen’s. I think they were the best at their positions in the country.”

Valberg and Ioannides are the latest in a line of professional receivers who played at Queen’s. Bagg, former Hamilton Tiger Cats receiver Iain Fleming and Toronto Argonaut Brad Smith are all Sheahan-bred receivers.

Sheahan said he hopes Ioannides makes B.C., but he wouldn’t mind seeing him return for a fifth season.

“Chris is … going there determined to make it as a professional football player,” he said. “I won’t be unhappy to see him return and play his final year, but I’ll be happier to watch him play on TV.”

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