The 2014 CFL season was a year of progression for the University of Manitoba Bison football program. Nine former members of the herd found themselves on CFL rosters, signifying a trend in the right direction.
Led by former safety Teague Sherman, Manitoba has bred a number of promising products, and that number looks to increase even more leading into the 2015 draft. Here’s a look at just a few players the Bions have produced.
The present: Teague Sherman (linebacker – Winnipeg)
Sherman was a standout with Manitoba, playing five seasons with the brown and gold. The Alberta native was originally recruited by the Bisons in 2008, after two strong seasons with the Victoria Rebels in the BCFC.
He earned the starting safety spot as a rookie, and played a prominent role on defence every year afterward. Sherman was named a captain in four consecutive seasons, becoming a vocal leader, both on and off of the field during his university career.
He was named a CIS All Canadian in his final two years with Manitoba, and was invited to the CFL combine after graduation. Despite going undrafted, Sherman signed a free agent contract with Winnipeg in 2012, showing his stuff on special teams.
He amassed eight special team tackles as a rookie, and continued to develop in the off-season. Sherman found his way onto the field as a starter midway through his sophomore season, making the move to linebacker.
The transition appeared seamless, as he displayed his athleticism and knowledge of the game on a weekly basis, recording 55 tackles, along with two sacks. Sherman has quickly earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitting players in the league, and should be stable in the Blue Bomber lineup for years to come.
Eddie Steele (Defensive tackle – Edmonton)
A Winnipeg product, Steele was recruited to play for the Bisons following his first and only season with the Kelvin Clippers in 2005. After redshirting in 2006, Steele earned a starting spot on the defensive line the following year, claiming a Vanier Cup with the herd.
Steele was originally taken 22nd overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 2010 CFL draft, after three impressive campaigns with Manitoba, which included being named a second team CIS All Canadian in his final season in 2009.
After playing two seasons with Hamilton (2011, 2012), Steele moved onto Edmonton in 2013. He has currently recorded 79 tackles and 10 sacks over four years in the CFL.
Steele’s most impressive showing occurred in 2014, where he finished the year with 32 tackles and six sacks, along with one interception for Edmonton. His performance on the field earned him a top Canadian nomination from the Eskimos.
Steele looks to have cemented himself a spot in the front four for Edmonton, and could be a wrecking ball in opposing teams’ backfields for years to come.
Anthony Coombs (Slotback – Toronto)
One of the most prolific players in Bison football history, Coombs was an impact player for Manitoba from day one.
Named a CIS first team All Canadian as an 18-year-old in 2011, Coombs proceeded to earn All Canadian honours the following two seasons as well (second team in 2012, first in 2013). The running back/kick returner out of Sturgeon Heights shone in his final year with Manitoba in 2013, totalling 1,696 all-purpose yards, good for first in the Canada West conference.
After a memorable college career, Coombs had his named called in the 2014 CFL draft, going third overall to Toronto. He made the move to slotback, and had a strong debut with the Argonauts, recording 22 receptions for 214 yards.
The Winnipeg native was derailed by injuries towards the back half of the year, but should be back bigger and better than ever in 2015. Based off his university production, and immediate impact last year, there’s no doubt Coombs will be a household name going forward.
The future: Evan Gill (defensive tackle – Hamilton)
Just like Coombs, Gill started in his first season with the Bisons in 2011, after redshirting the previous year. A physical player, Gill has represented Manitoba in both the International Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
He was selected ninth overall in the 2014 CFL draft, but opted to return to school for one more year, after a quadriceps injury.
Gill tore his ACL during the 2014 CIS season, a huge stumbling block on his path towards his professional dreams; however, given his work ethic, drive, and track record, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him producing big numbers in a few years.
Nic Demski (slotback – Manitoba)
In 2014, Demski became the first player in Manitoba history to be named a four-time CIS All Canadian. Another converted running back, Demski can score from anywhere on the field, in any formation, and is also a threat on special teams.
Ranked as a top five prospect heading into the 2015 CFL combine, Demski is a lock to make a professional team; the only question is who will draft him and at what position.
Jordan Yantz (quarterback – Manitoba)
Despite playing just two years with Manitoba, Yantz established himself as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Bison football history. This past year, he took the herd all the way to the CIS National semifinal, nearly securing Manitoba a berth in the Vanier Cup.
The biggest downfall for Yantz heading into the draft is the presence of numerous strong-armed American quarterbacks. It is very rare, if not impossible nowadays, for a Canadian to start at the pivot position in the CFL; however, if anyone can do it, Yantz—with a cannon for an arm, and tremendous leadership—can.