UConn Center Alex Mateas was selected by his hometown Ottawa REDBLACKS as the number one overall pick in last week's Canadian Football League Draft.
"It is an honor to be picked number one overall in the 2015 CFL Draft by the REDBLACKS," said Mateas. "The opportunity to represent my home city and play football on the same field that I used to play soccer on as a kid is surreal. I look forward to contributing any way possible to the team and to bring a Grey Cup back to Ottawa."
After beginning his collegiate career at Penn State, Mateas transferred to UConn where he started 29 games in three seasons, including every game of the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
"When you take into account Alex's abilities on the field, his durability, the level of competition that he played against as well as his integrity and intelligence, the selection of Alex was an easy decision, said REDBLACKS general manager Marcel Desjardins. "Add the fact that Ottawa is home and this is where he wants to be makes this the perfect selection."
UConn has a history of players that have made an impact in the CFL, including current player Martin Bedard and fullback John Delahunt, who would be Mateas' new REDBLACKS teammate had he not just retired. Bedard is from Laval, Quebec and plays fullback for the Montreal Alouettes.
Delahunt, like Mateas, is an Ottawa native. The 6-foot-3 tight end finished his UConn career in 2012 with 18 receptions and 223 receiving yards as a senior. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2013. He was then selected by the Ottawa REDBLACKS in the CFL expansion draft and joined the team for its inaugural 2014 season.
Mateas is the seventh UConn player selected in the CFL draft since 2004:
2013 - DE Jesse Joseph - selected in 3rd round (23rd overall) by the Montral Alouettes
2011 - OL Moe Petrus - selected in 2nd round (10th overall) by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2009 - LB Martin Bedard - selected in 2nd round (14th overall) by the Montral Alouettes
2006 - DE Shawn Mayne - selected in 3rd round (18th overall) by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2006 - DE Jason Ward - selected in 6th round (48th overall) by the BC Lions
2004 - WR O'Neil Wilson - selected in 3rd round (25th overall) by the Montral Alouettes
Pretty impressive, eh?!
By far the most memorable recent run of any former UConn player in the CFL came from a player who wasn't even drafted. Larry Taylor was best known as an exciting return specialist throughout his career at UConn. He joined the Montreal Alouettes in 2008. In 2009, he won the CFL's Special Teams Player of the Year Award for a season in which he led the CFL in combined yards with 1,971 and scored three touchdowns.
After a brief stint with the New York Jets training camp and practice squad in 2010, Taylor returned to Canada. He played for the Calgary Stampeders 2011-2013, then went back to Montreal for 2014.
Taylor was a part of two Grey Cup Championships with Montreal and has made two CFL All-Star teams. His CFL future is uncertain after seven seasons as he was recently released, but he has made a name for himself north of the border by ripping off returns such as this one which appeared on SportsCenter's top 10 (throw your LT's up).
Other Huskies to play in the CFL include:
- CB Jordan Younger made the transition from Storrs to Canada successfully, being named to two CFL All-Star teams in 2005 and 2007 with the Toronto Argonauts.
- LB Maurice Lloyd was named to the All-Western Division team and helped lead the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Grey Cup Championship in 2007.
- DE Shawn Mayne and WR O'Neil Wilson, both native Canadians, teamed up as members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2008.
- RB Terry Caulley, one of the best running backs to play at UConn, spent 2007-2009 with the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Byron Jones (No. 27 pick of the Dallas Cowboys) wasn't the only first round pick from UConn football this year. For players who don't get a chance in the NFL and are passionate about football, the CFL is a great way to continue to play the game they love. Good luck to Alex Mateas as he tries to bring the Grey Cup to his hometown of Ottawa for the first time since 1976.