If you want to play football, you’ve got to be tough. If you want to play football in Canada, you might have to be even tougher.
“In Edmonton, Alberta, it gets really cold,” freshman defensive lineman Lwal Uguak said. “We played our city championship game in negative 20 degree celsius (negative four degrees Fahrenheit) weather. You have to be really tough, especially with D-line and O-line with your hand in the ice and snow.”
That toughness is part of why Edsall brought Uguak to Storrs. So far, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound freshman is adjusting to college ball and working his way into a more consistent role on the defensive line.
“We were looking for defensive linemen and we made some calls to people we know in Canada and researched some things and found him,” Edsall said. “You try to utilize all your resources to find young men for what you want to do. We’ve been really pleased with his development. Right now, is he a defensive tackle? No. But is that his best position in the long run? Yes.”
While Uguak hasn’t seen much action for the Huskies outside of the win over Rhode Island, he represents some of the Canadian talent head coach Randy Edsall currently has on his roster. Right now, UConn features five Canadians on the roster, including standout wide receiver Hergy Mayala and kicker Michael Tarbutt.
Like any coach with a pipeline, Edsall relies on a network of trusted high school coaches — some of which played under Edsall — to identify some of the country’s best talent and recruit the next wave of Canadian prospects.
“We have people up there that we can lean on and can trust to let me know about the kids and those are the type of the kids we can fit into our program,” Edsall said.
Even though the rules for Canadian football vary slightly, Edsall is adamant that the talent up north is as good as numerous states in the U.S.
“It’s comparable to some of the states here in the United States. It’s not comparable to Florida, Texas, those places but you get good athletes. Ever since I’ve been coaching I’ve coached kids and recruited kids from Canada and they’ve done well. We’ve had a history here of kids in our program here from Canada that have done well.”
Edsall is right about the Canadian connection. In the past, Canadians have come through UConn and returned home as first-round picks in the Canadian Football League Draft. Offensive lineman Alex Mateas was taken No. 1 overall in 2015, and fellow Canadian offensive lineman Trey Rutherford was selected No. 2 overall in 2018.
While Uguak has a long way to go before he has a chance to join Mateas or Rutherford in the pros, Edsall thinks he has the drive to blossom into an impact player for the Huskies in the near future.
“He’s a kid that’s going to work and get better, he competes,” Edsall said. “I know once the season’s over, Lwal wiill hit the weight room and get bigger. I’m pleased with how he’s come along.”