Former Golden Gaels to tackle new CFL challenges

Saskatchewan signs Bagg and Freeman, Calgary and Toronto draft Hazlett, Smith

Rob Bagg eludes a tackle in a game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees this season.
Rob Bagg eludes a tackle in a game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees this season.
Journal File Photo

Recent Queen’s football graduates are already making an impact on the professional scene.

At the Canadian Football League draft May 2 in Toronto, linebacker Ian Hazlett, PhysEd ’07, was selected in the fifth round, 38th overall by the Calgary Stampeders. Six picks later, wide receiver Brad Smith, ArtSci ’06 was selected in the final round by the Toronto Argonauts.

The next day, slotback Rob Bagg, ArtSci ’07, was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Offensive lineman Ryan Freeman, ArtSci ’06, had already signed with the Riders in early March.

The four Golden Gael standouts will travel to their respective teams’ training camps this week in hopes of earning at most a roster spot, and at least a place on the

practice squad.

Smith, who leaves Queen’s as the university’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 23, slipped to the last round despite being projected to be a higher pick.

“I was just excited to get drafted,” he said. “You’re going to the camp either way, so it doesn’t really matter where you get picked.”

Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan wasn’t surprised at the Argos’ interest in Smith.

“He was probably the fastest player in the OUA last year, and that’s the kind of player they’re looking for in an offensive threat. The fact that he’s Canadian makes him even more desirable.”

Hazlett is expected to make an impact in Calgary. Duane Forde of The Score calls Hazlett “a tackling machine with legitimate CFL size.” Hazlett has been well known for his toughness and aggressiveness throughout his career as a Gael.

Sheahan said he likes Hazlett’s chances of making Calgary’s squad.

“He’s exactly the mentality that CFL teams look for in a linebacker, and he’s very bright… He’ll pick up the system extremely well.” Freeman’s signing with the Roughriders is an especially big accomplishment: with the demise of the Ottawa Renegades, the CFL is experiencing a shortage of positions for a larger pool of talent. This was especially apparent at line positions.

“Saskatchewan recognized [Freeman’s] ability and size,” Sheahan said.

Rob Bagg went from disappointment to elation in a span of a day when the Roughriders signed him following the draft. One of the Gaels’ outstanding offensive and special teams players this year—Sheahan refers to him as “Mr. Everything”—Bagg will try to overcome long odds with Saskatchewan’s strong receiver corps.

Although getting drafted to the CFL is an accomplishment in itself, it’s only the first step in what the players hope will be a long journey.

“I’m not having any illusions of grandeur, thinking I’ll play right away,” Smith said.

Sheahan said the former Gaels still have a lot of work ahead of them.

“They’re going to have to prove themselves against their peers. … Getting them there was only half the job.”

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