Growing up, many young football players aspire to play in the Canadian Football League, and after the recent league draft, three University of Saskatchewan Huskies will have the chance to achieve this dream.
On May 7, Mitchell Hillis and Julan Lynch were joined by offensive lineman Evan Johnson as CFL draft picks. Hillis was selected in the eighth round, 69th overall, by the British Columbia Lions, while Lynch was picked in the second round, 17th overall, by the Calgary Stampeders. Johnson was the sixth Huskie to be chosen in the first round of a modern-era draft and went ninth overall to the reigning Grey Cup champions — the Ottawa Redblacks.
The modern era of the CFL draft, which was put in place in 1985, has seen five previous Huskies chosen in the first round and 57 players in total. Before Johnson, the last Huskie to be selected in the first round was Ben Heenan, another offensive lineman who went to the Saskatchewan Roughriders as the first pick of the 2012 draft.
In addition to the achievement of being a first-round draft pick, Johnson was named a Canada West all-star and U Sports Second Team all-Canadian in 2016 and helped the Huskies Offence to average 32.6 points per game and 434 yards per game.
While Lynch was only able to play seven out of eight games in the 2016 season, he managed 455 yards over 33 receptions and in 2015 accumulated 606 yards through 44 receptions. Hillis managed 423 yards for the Huskies in 35 receptions over the six games he played in the 2016 season, placing him only behind Lynch in terms of total receiving yards for the Huskies’ squad.
For these three Huskies, the summer of 2017 will be spent maintaining their physical edge while attending their respective camps and getting accustomed to the city associated with each of their new teams.
Mitch Hillis, a fourth-year kinesiology major and number 87 for the Huskies this past year, discusses how he felt after the draft selection.
“When you grow up playing football, I guess you watch the CFL, and that’s the dream,” Hillis said.
Hillis continues to explain why he’s excited to be a part of the CFL.
“It’s awesome just to have the opportunity to be able to group yourself in with those guys who have played in the CFL, so that’s pretty sweet,” Hillis said.
Evan Johnson, a fourth-year civil engineering major and number 65 for the Huskies, gives his fondest memories looking back at his time with the program.
“Finally beating Calgary this year was awesome. The huge comeback game playing down in Regina last year was awesome as well. Even going as far back as to the Dogs’ Breakfast my first year, being introduced and seeing how Saskatoon takes Huskies football,” Johnson said.
As he prepares to leave the Huskies program, Hillis outlines the best thing he learned as a Huskie.
“Being involved with the community. A big thing with the U of S being in a smaller city, I think, is helping out with the community and stuff, and I got to do a lot of that through football, whether it be coaching or helping out with other things. I think giving back to the community is one big thing that football has taught me, and I want to do that a lot more now,” Hillis said.