Temple football alumni fit fast-paced CFL style of play

The Ottawa Redblacks have four alumni on their roster.


It’s rare for Jean-Marc Edme to spend as much time at one school as he did at Temple in 2016.

Edme is the director of player personnel for the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks. He visits 25 to 30 schools each fall to scout talent, and on an October day two years ago, he found himself impressed with the talent in Temple’s senior class.

Today, three members of that class — linebacker Avery Williams, defensive lineman Avery Ellis and tight end and defensive end Romond Deloatch — are among the four former Owls on Ottawa’s roster. Ellis spent the 2017 season with the Redblacks, while Williams and Deloatch, the newest additions, signed with the team earlier this month.

“It was one of those schools, one of those visits, that I was there for a long time,” Edme said. “They were deep, especially on defense, a lot of good football players.”

The Redblacks’ scouting staff has about seven people, including Edme, who cover the Eastern seaboard from New York to North Carolina by scouting colleges’ senior classes.

Edme has a network of contacts that includes Temple offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan, who coached the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ wideouts in 2010 and 2011. Wiesehan recommended to Edme former Owls’ offensive lineman Eric Lofton, who played one CFL game in 2017.

CFL fans and scouts recognize Temple’s program because of former Owls who’ve had careers in the league. Derek Dennis, who played on the Owls’ offensive line from 2007-11, won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2016.

The 2016 CFL season ended with Henry Burris quarterbacking the Redblacks to a Grey Cup title. Burris, who played for Temple from 1993-96, retired after winning his third Grey Cup as the league’s third all-time leading passer.

Both of those players had NFL experience — Dennis played in the preseason and on practice squads and Burris was in six games in 2002 — before fully establishing their CFL careers. A significant percentage of CFL players spent time in NFL camps before being cut, Edme said.

NFL teams, however, want the players they release to sign with other teams, which is why they allow people like Edme to watch training camp practices. He had a chance to watch Williams while he was with the Houston Texans in the 2017 preseason.

Fast linebackers are important in the CFL. The field, excluding the end zones, is 10 yards longer and nearly 12 yards wider than an NFL field. That’s where Williams comes into play. Edme told Williams that NFL teams often pass up on shorter linebackers, but his height didn’t matter to him.

Williams, listed at 5 feet, 10 inches, played in the preseason with the Houston Texans before being cut on his birthday, Sept. 2.

“When you get released from a team, actually from your dream job, that goes through your head like 1,000 times, like, ‘Man, what if I never play football again?’” Williams said. “So, just receiving that blessing from the Ottawa Redblacks, it was amazing.”

The Redblacks’ attempt to find Williams was nearly unsuccessful. Someone mistakenly called Ellis in January 2017 thinking it was Williams. Ellis turned out to be a key player for Ottawa, leading the team with six sacks last season and returning a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown, his first since high school.

The faster pace of CFL football makes pass rushers important, Edme said. Despite Deloatch’s experience as a third-down defensive end as a redshirt senior, Edme sees him strictly as a wide receiver.

Deloatch tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles in May. The Eagles envisioned him as a tight end and asked him to increase his weight before he was released in the summer.

Then, Deloatch signed with Ottawa for the first time on Sept. 14.

Now he is on a no-starch diet as he tries to trim down from 231 pounds to 220 in time for preseason camp in May. Edme projects Deloatch as a red-zone threat in the CFL.

“They want me to mismatch with the safeties and the bigger linebackers,” Deloatch said. “So it’s not really a tight end move, but it’s more so a slot receiver. I like the plan they have for me.”

“The CFL game, it’s really fast,” Edme said. “It’s kind of like a spread offense. We pass the ball a lot. … So we need guys who can run, who can catch the ball.”

Edme visited Temple in October and again saw players he liked from the senior class, specifically former wide receivers Adonis Jennings and Keith Kirkwood. Both of them and former safety Sean Chandler played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Saturday in Southern California.

Jennings led all players with 61 receiving yards. Kirkwood and Jennings have the potential to make NFL training camps or final rosters depending on the needs of teams, Edme said.

He intends to visit Temple again during each college season, he said.

“We’re looking for good football players, and we know Temple produces good football players,” Edme said. “It’s a well-run program and we know that if we sign them, they’re going to be happy in Ottawa because Philly is a good multicultural city. Ottawa is the same way.”

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