It was a disappointing end to the 2015 season for the University of Manitoba Bisons football team. But for players such as DJ Lalama there’s no time to linger on what could’ve been, as he now sets his sights on the 2016 CFL draft this coming spring.
The Manitoban sat down with Lalama for the final instalment of “Discussions with DJ” to talk about his preparations for the CFL evaluation camp and draft, as well as his final comments on the 2015 campaign.
Manitoban: What were the emotions like for you at the end of the season?
Lalama: Disappointed. I think the way we left off was almost embarrassing considering the expectations we had for ourselves at the beginning of the season. Little things like sitting back and watching Guelph take home the OUA championship after our defence arguably shut them out completely in the pre-season in the first half, and then to have 52 points put up against us in that last game, things just don’t really add up. It’s just one of those things where it just wasn’t in the cards this year and hopefully everyone that’s wearing that jersey next year will have a chip on their shoulder and brings that every time they step on the field.
M: How would you rate the defence’s play this season?
L: In such a short season, you basically just look to progress every week. I think that we did that. Would we have liked to have gotten better quicker? Yeah, sure, you could say that, but overall I think the games that we put together like week seven and week eight and even the first little bit of the playoff game – sometimes we were dealt a crappy hand – and I think we responded well, but obviously it wasn’t enough.
M: Why do you think the team struggled so much playing against UBC this year?
L: The first game when we played them, I really think special teams were the difference. You can arguably say that 21 to 24 of their points were contributed just solely on special teams in that game and I think that’s where it lies in that game difference-wise. The last game of the season, going in there with our third-string quarterback basically by the time the second quarter rolled around, we weren’t expecting ourselves to win, but we wanted to play and leave a good taste in our mouths heading into the playoff game.
We didn’t have our quarterback; we were just doing our best to win a football game. Lastly, that last playoff game, yeah they had our number. It was pouring, I’ve never played in as much rain as that game before – not to use that as an excuse, but there was definitely some home-field advantage there. That first half as a defensive player, we were dealt a shittier deal for lack of a better word. We got into a hole and it just kept on getting worse and we couldn’t get ourselves out of it.
M: What does being given the conference student-athlete community service award mean to you?
L: Obviously on a personal note it’s a high honour to be chosen by your coach first of all and the head coaches in the conference, to represent Winnipeg, the Bisons, and Canada West moving forward in that nomination. With the way our season ended though, I think if anything it’d just be a small consolation. It’s nice to have your name mentioned alongside Russ Jackson and the other nominees, but I’d do anything to be out there and playing still.
M: Moving onto the next step in your football career, are you doing anything differently to train for the CFL draft?
L: Obviously the calendar speaks for itself, as you now have to be ready now at the end of March as opposed to the end of August regarding being in peak physical form in order to test properly. I think now as well a lot more focus will be on the technique side of things for the specific combine tests as opposed to pure athleticism and strength as it would be in a normal off-season.
Lastly, getting on the field much earlier is going to be crucial for the two days of one-on-ones and stuff like that at the E-camp. Normally you don’t do that kind of stuff in the summertime. Now everything is just sort of squished into four months.
M: Do you know what to expect heading into the combine, in terms of what scouts are looking for from you?
L: I think they’re making notes about everything, I don’t think there’s anything in particular. From what I’ve heard from ex-teammates that are now in the CFL, it’s about that improvement off the testing scores to sort of see that you’re working and not just content with where you are. In terms of extra things on the field, everyone wants to go out there and have a great showing, but at the end of the day, it’s a very, very small sample size.
For example, I’ve got four years of film where you can’t hide anything. [The scouts are] going to be in tune to that much greater than what you do on the one day at the E-camp. But definitely, that’s a place where you can raise or drop your stock.
M: Knowing where you stand as a player, do you have any specific expectations for draft day?
L: I’ve done I think, four years of well more than what the average university student athlete gets to enjoy. So for me, being graduated already, it’s definitely exciting to have that opportunity to move on, but now the onus is on me to make that happen.
In speaking with the CFL representatives and Coach Dobie, I’m definitely expecting to get drafted. Where, I mean your guess is as good as mine. It depends on the ratio, it depends on who needs a long snapper, who needs a linebacker, or what kind of system they play, so that’s completely out of my hands.
All I can do is get myself in the best shape possible by that combine date, and hopefully [the scouts] tune into my film and appreciate what I’ve done. Wherever I go I’ll be happy, I’m just excited about the opportunity to make it to the pros and represent Bison football.
BELOW IS DJ’S CFL PROSPECT FILM: