O’Donnell rides west

Matt O’Donnell will join former teammates Rob Bagg and Shomari Williams in Saskatchewan after being chosen fifteenth overall in CFL draft

Matt O’Donnell was selected fifteenth overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL draft earlier this month.
Matt O’Donnell was selected fifteenth overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL draft earlier this month.
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For the second consecutive year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders chose a Queen’s player in the CFL entry draft. Offensive lineman Matt O’Donnell was chosen 15th overall earlier this month.

Last year, the Roughriders drafted Gael Shomari Williams first overall. Queen’s receiver Rob Bagg was signed by the organization after he went undrafted in 2007.

“We have had success with Queen’s. We tip our cap to the program.” said Jeremy O’Day, who’s responsible for drafting future Roughriders.

O’Day said that O’Donnell’s considerable size and athleticism were what attracted the Riders.

“He moves quite well for being so big,” O’Day said.

If O’Donnell gets past training camp, he’ll be competing with veteran linemen for playing time. Five linemen from last season are already over 30.

“Traditionally, the transition from CIS to CFL football has taken a few years, but there have been cases where guys have played, because of injuries, or after having had strong training camps,” O’Day said. “With our offensive line getting up in age, Matt has a great opportunity.”

O’Donnell will get to spend at least one season under the tutelage of Gene Makoswski, a premier Canadian offensive lineman.

O’Day said that O’Donnell will have the support of a loyal following. The Roughriders play home games in front of 30,000 fans at Mosaic Stadium, and are supported by a large travelling contingent when they play outside of Regina.

“Once you become a Roughrider, the people of Saskatchewan love you,” O’Day said. “A lot of young kids dream about playing here, because of the craziness of the place.”

O’Donnell said he’s excited to head to Regina this week for the beginning of Roughrider training camp.

“It seems to be a pipeline for Queen’s football,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve spoken with Shomari over Facebook quite a bit, and he’s made it clear how great of an environment it is out there.”

O’Donnell will be joining a very strong team. The Roughriders have finished either first or second in the CFL West for the past four seasons. They have appeared in the Grey Cup final three times in that period, and were champions in 2007.

O’Donnell has spent the past month training in Virginia to prepare for training camp, and said that he has set clear goals for June.

“I definitely want to make the roster,” he said.

O’Donnell was listed as 6’10” and 330 lbs. on CFL prospects lists. He one of 34 Canadian University players to be drafted to the pros this year.

Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan said American talent in the CFL will pose challenges to O’Donnell.

“I don’t think we’re insulting anybody by saying that Matt will play better people,” Sheahan said.

“There will be some days where he will be humbled, and some days where he will shine. But the bottom line is that he has tremendous upside. I predict Matt to have a career of twelve to fifteen years.”

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