Lemar Durant has noticed the abundance of Canadian receivers turning heads in the NCAA this year, he's just having a little difficulty keeping track of them all.
"It seems like every time I turn on the TV there's another Canadian receiver playing and making a big name," the B.C. Lions veteran receiver said during a Grey Cup Unite videoconference this week. "It just shows the game is growing here.
"Hopefully we'll see more of it because we've got a lot of talent here. It feels like a lot of the time we haven't been able to showcase it or just haven't got the same looks that the American guys get."
Two receivers who've made a big splash this year are John Metchie III of Brampton, Ont., and Ajou Ajou of Brooks, Alta. The six-foot, 195-pound Metchie III has 24 catches for 517 yards (21/5-yard average) with three TDs as a sophomore with the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
The six-foot-three, 215-pound Ajou made headlines this year when he cracked the roster of then top-ranked Clemson as a freshman. The Tigers (7-1) are currently No. 4 after losing earlier this season to Notre Dame.
But Metchie and Ajou aren't alone. Other productive Canadian--born receivers include Vancouver's Jana Terrell (Virginia), Tennessee's Josh Palmer (Brampton), Pitt's Jared Wayne (Peterborough, Ont.) and Hawaii's Nick Mardner (Mississauga, Ont.).
However, Canadians are also excelling at other positions, including Chuba Hubbard of Sherwood Park., Alta., (running back, No. 14 Oklahoma State); Calgary's Amen Ogbonbemiga (linebacker, Oklahoma State); Enock Makonzo of Lachine, Que., (linebacker/DB, No. 15 Coastal Carolina); Ottawa's Jesse Luketa (linebacker, Penn State); Ottawa's Akheem Mesidor (defensive lineman, West Virginia) and Alonzo Addae of Pickering, Ont. (defensive back, West Virginia), to name a few.
The six-foot-two, 218-pound Durant knows the challenge of playing against American competition. The 28-year-old native of Coquitlam, B.C., attended Simon Fraser, which competes in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Durant was selected in the second round, No. 18 overall, of the 2015 CFL draft by Calgary. He was named the top Canadian in the Stampeders' 27-16 Grey up win over Ottawa in 2018, registering four catches for 30 yards and TD while adding a 22-yard run.
He joined the Lions as a free agent in 2019. He registered career highs in catches (57), receiving yards (810) and touchdowns (five) over 15 games last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
In November, 2019, Durant signed a two-year extension with the Lions.
The emergence of Canadian-born receivers in the NCAA comes at a time when there's no tackle football being played north of the border. Both the CFL and U Sports cancelled their '20 campaigns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think this is a good thing for these players and it's a good thing for Canadians in general now," Durant said. "It's just getting more eyes on them and then I feel that will just carry over when everything does continue to run normally.
"I think we're headed in the right direction and people are really starting to see if (Canadians) get opportunity that we can make a big splash."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2020