|Photo by Becky Ellis|
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, a team in the Canadian Football League, drafted a 2012 Poinciana High School football standout last month to fill its offensive line.
Dariusz Bladek, at 6-5 and 311 pounds, is just the right size for Canadian ball, which is played on a longer and wider field and requires three downs to gain 10 yards for a first down.
These differences require more agility and speed from the players on the offensive and defensive lines.
“I’m proud to be a Roughrider,” said Bladek, who is training now in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the preseason camp.
The CFL season starts a few months earlier than the National Football League. The Roughriders kick off the preseason June 10 against their rival, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Bladek was a highly-recruited high school athlete in 2012, with offers from University of South Florida and Florida International University, among others.
Bladek accepted a full ride to Bethune-Cookman, where he started all four years.
“I chose Bethune Cookman to stay closer to home,” said Bladek, who said he is close to his younger brother, Jozef, a 2017 PHS graduate.
After graduating from BC last year, Bladek entered the NFL draft. He worked out with Baltimore, but did not receive a contract.
Bladek then set his sights further north.
Bladek’s mother is Canadian, so he applied for dual citizenship, making him more attractive to Canadian teams.
In the CFL, each team can have a maximum of 44 players, but only 20 can be drafted from abroad.
Charles Jones, Bethune Cookman’s assistant head coach, said the Roughriders are fortunate to add Bladek to the roster.
“Dariusz has been offered a great opportunity,” Jones said. “It’s something he has wanted, and he worked hard to achieve it.”
Bladek often showed up to Poinciana football spring practices to lend a hand.
“I’ve had some off time, so I wanted to give back to the high school that gave so much to me,” said the Poinciana graduate.
Ken Knapcyzk, the Eagles’ coach, said that the impact Bladek made on Poinciana was large because he inspired many players to work hard in hopes that they can achieve success, too.
Bladek said he hopes to return to Poinciana after the CFL offseason to help coach where he can.
“I just want to show high school athletes that I’m living proof,” Bladek said. “If you work hard enough, you can make it.”
(Alli Aungst is a student at Poinciana High School)