Kwemo sees dream come true

Gaels linebacker drafted 18 overall in CFL Draft

Nelkas Kwemo was surrounded by family and friends—patiently awaiting his future. Soon, he thought, his childhood dream of becoming a professional athlete would ring true. 

And it would. 

After hearing his name called at the 2018 CFL Draft, Kwemo said he would forever remember May 3 as, “Overall, one of the best nights of my life.”

The linebacker, who spent four seasons with the Queen’s football program, was selected 18th overall in the second round by the Toronto Argonauts.

Kwemo saw two of his fellow Gaels teammates also get the nod on draft night. Linebacker Mike Moore was picked in the sixth round to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and defensive back Jacob Firlotte went in the seventh to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Considering his competitive introduction to the sport came at just age 16, Kwemo experienced a quick ascension to the pros.

After playing soccer for most of his childhood, Kwemo began playing football in tenth grade in his Quebec high school, Collège Sainte-Anne de Lachine. He started his career as a quarterback, 

but—upon transferring to Kent Hills, a prep school in Maine—his then-coach suggested he make the switch to linebacker due to his imposing size. 

This, Kwemo said, gave him a strong foundation of which to build his Queen’s career off. 

Standing at 6’3 and 226lb, Kwemo led the Gaels in this past season with 48 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions—one of which he returned for his first career touchdown. These efforts saw him named as an OUA First Team All-Star and U Sports First Team All-Canadian. To put the cherry on top of his senior season, at the Queen’s football Awards Banquet, Kwemo was honoured with the Lou Bruce Trophy for the program’s top defensive player.

Kwemo said that his time at Queen’s has adequately prepared him for the expectations he’ll face at the next level.  

“Our coaches have always put a strong emphasis on the importance of mental and physical preparation— along with professionalism—in everything we do. And that’s the kind of mentality I am approaching this new experience with,” Kwemo said in an interview with The Journal. He further added that some of his fondest memories at Queen’s came from the football field, especially sharing a field with his brother, Sakhia, a first-year Gael.

At the National CFL Combine, which was held in Winnipeg on Mar. 23, Kwemo was able to separate himself from other highly coveted prospects. He finished fourth in the broad jump, sixth in the bench press, and eighth in the four other fitness testing categories—a strong outing in his final opportunity to impress league managers.

Kwemo noted a particular area of his excitement will be the chance to fully devote his time and energy to one thing—football. It’ll mark the first time he won’t have to juggle academics and athletics simultaneously. 

“Before today, football has always been balanced with school or work, but now football is work and I can commit a lot more time to it,” Kwemo said.

Looking ahead, the linebacker said he’s strictly focused on earning himself a roster spot with the Argonauts. He’ll have the opportunity to prove his worth on May 20 when training camp with his new CFL side takes place.

“The importance to me has always been to end up on a team where I would get the opportunity to show what I can do,” Kwemo said. 

“That’s what I have in the Toronto Argonauts and I am beyond excited to get started.”



CFL, draft, Football

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