Blue Bombers receiver Dalton Schoen named top rookie after leap of faith in CFL


Dalton Schoen had never set foot in Canada and knew little about the CFL before arriving in Winnipeg for training camp.

“I didn’t know where Winnipeg was until I Googled it,” Schoen told The Canadian Press. “I tell people I didn’t even know there were 12 people on the pitch until I got my playbook, which was like two weeks before camp. Then you found out that the ground was wider.”

The 26-year-old Kansas State player was a quick study with the Blue Bombers.

Schoen led the CFL in receiving yards with 1,441 on 70 receptions and was tied for the most touchdowns (16) this season with Caleb Evans of Ottawa.

Set to make his Gray Cup debut on Sunday when the Blue Bombers take on the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Schoen won the league’s 2022 rookie award on Thursday night.

“He’s got all the measurable things you look for as a catcher,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said. “We ask our guys to do a lot, not just in the passing game, but also in the running game.

Dalton Schoen led the CFL in receiving yards with 1,441 on 70 receptions and was tied for the most touchdowns (16) this season with Caleb Evans of Ottawa. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)

“Seeing the different looks of the box in the racing game and understanding what the different covers are, that’s not easy to do. I’ve been on teams where guys aren’t asked to do that at all and for us to ask a rookie to do that and for him to figure it out so quickly, I think that’s something that definitely stood out.

NFL training camps

Schoen had watched a few CFL games before arriving in Winnipeg, but not thinking about playing in the league.

He had had coaching stints in the NFL with the Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Commanders and twice with the Kansas City Chiefs, his home state, following his college career with the Wildcats.

If you had told him a year ago that he would play a starring role on a favorite team to win a third straight Gray Cup, the Overland Park athlete says he would have been “intrigued.”

“Canada was never really on my radar,” Schoen said. “I started thinking about it last spring when no opportunity in the NFL presented itself, but I always tell people I’m lucky to be here.

“I thank God every day to be here because most of the last two years I’ve been sitting at home on the couch. I was training. I was waiting for a call that never came.

“To be here now and to play football in a meaningful way and to have the season that I’ve had and to experience this team, to be part of this culture, it’s special.”

Schoen’s adjustment to the CFL was felt as early as Week 5 when he had two touchdowns and 117 yards in Winnipeg’s 43-22 win over the BC Lions.

His locker was next to veteran Drew Wolitarsky in the Bombers locker room.

Schoen sat next to receiver Greg Ellingson, who had played in five Gray Cups, in the boardroom “because I knew he was a guy with a ton of experience.”

“He has a lot of attributes that I think I’m proud of,” Ellingson said. “Work hard, try to be smart and read the covers the right way, put your head down, don’t really say too much bullshit to guys and just prove with your game that you can be a baller here.

“People always tell you that you can’t do it or you can’t do it, and you don’t really have to say much, but just prove with your acting that you’re that guy.”

Help from teammates

Schoen credits Wolitarsky, Ellingson and Nic Demski for accelerating his transition to Canadian football.

“I always tell Wally and Demski that I have the best seat in the caucus because I’m right in between those two,” Schoen said. “They both have so much experience. They were never shy about helping me, most of the time before I even had to ask.”

Schoen took a leap of faith when he arrived in the CFL. It’s the one he recommends to others at a crossroads in their football career.

“It might be a scary proposition for some guys,” he said. “You go to a country where you don’t know anyone else. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but one of the most important things I’ve learned is that you have a connection with every single person. here.

“This football community is more tight-knit than you might think. Throughout training camp, as I got to know the guys, it seemed like everyone on the team I spoke to knew someone. ‘one that I knew or ran into somewhere. We have a lot of really cool people in this team.


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