Six Gaels recognized on 2021 East-West Bowl roster

Men’s football represented on both sides of the ball

This year's East-West Bowl will not be played.
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Six Queen’s football players were recognized by the 2021 U SPORTS East-West Bowl roster earlier this month. Queen’s, along with the University of Alberta, Wilfrid Laurier University, and McGill University, lead all schools in a number of selections.

One hundred ten players were jointly selected by U SPORTS and the Canadian Football League (CFL) to join the roster. The East-West Bowl celebrates the next generation of Canadian football prospects, where selected players are standouts for the 2022 CFL draft.

Selected to Team East are running back Rasheed Tucker, receiver Sakhia Kwemo, and offensive lineman Jacob Butler on the offensive side. On the defensive side, middle linebacker Gabriel Boucher, defensive end Anthony Federico, and linebacker and punt returner Nolan Bedard were honoured.

In an interview with The Journal, Tucker, Comm ’22, a 2019 OUA Second Team All-Star, said he is honoured and grateful for the recognition, and that playing in the East-West Bowl has been his goal since watching the game in high school.

Boucher, ArtSci ‘21, also panned back to his high school days, saying it feels “really good” to be recognized among athletes he’d played with or against in those years.

Being named to the East-West roster means a lot for Federico, ArtSci ‘23, 2019 OUA Second Team All-Star and 2020 winner of the Orrin Carson Trophy for Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman.

“Ever since I started university football, this has been a huge goal of mine to complete,” he said. “Honestly, it's a huge, huge, huge checkmark off my list of goals I've set for myself.”

Bedard, Comm ‘22, told The Journal how it felt to be honoured amongst his fellow teammates.

“I feel very privileged to be recognized as an East-West candidate. And more so than that, I feel pretty privileged to be recognized amongst a group of other great Queen’s athletes,” he said.

Kwemo, Sci ‘22, said the recognition has taught him a lot about perseverance. He second-guessed himself after not dressing for the team in his first year, which pushed him to develop a rigorous work ethic in the offseason. He became a starter in his second year, and now he has arrived at this moment.

“It just taught me that like it doesn’t matter like where you start or how good you are when you started as long as you just like put in the work it’s always going to come back to you eventually,” he explained.

This year, the selected athletes won’t have the opportunity to play the actual game, which has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While disappointment is in the air, it wasn’t a surprise to these athletes who have been dealing with inconsistencies and cancellations for the past two years of their football careers.

“I'm a little bittersweet about it, I for sure would love to go out there and display my talents, display my strengths, go test for the scouts and stuff like that. But I understand like, it's not safe to do so right now,” said Federico.

The players share their roster recognitions with Queen’s Football, attributing much of their athletic and personal development to the program’s environment, teammates, and coaches.

“The whole routine and environment of Queen’s Football is pretty insane,” Kwame said, speaking highly of the program’s support system and the “amazing” coaching, strength and conditioning staff who have contributed to his success. 

“I would definitely never be here without all my teammates that literally are the reason I go to practice I go to workouts and the reason why you do that extra repetition,” Boucher said. “Because you know they're going to do it for you, you want to do it for them.”

Tucker said his experience with Queen’s football is the primary reason he was able to achieve this recognition. He was avid to give a shout-out to his offensive line, who’ve “helped me to develop and given me the opportunity to perform to the extent that I have.”

Bedard echoed these sentiments, crediting the program’s dedication to all its athletes’ as a major contributor to being named to the East-West Bowl roster.

“I believe it was coach Snyder [who] told us, you know, it's one of the few times in your life where you're going to have a coach or mentor, a teammate, even like a co-worker, who really wants you to succeed as bad as the guys on the team and the coaches do […] it's rare that you find people being that passionate about your own success.”

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