Homegrown : A Drew Desjarlais Profile

Jessie Larouche
By Jessie Larouche November 6, 2023 17:50

By: Jessie Larouche

It’s November, 2007 in the small Canadian county town of Belle River, Ontario. The snow is just starting to drop and minor hockey season is in full swing. For Belle River, hockey season is the busiest time of the year as you can find nearly the whole town at the rink of this hockey dominated town. On the way to the rink, there’s a 10 year old boy in the back of his mother’s black dodge nitro looking out the window. Little did this kid know he’d one day make it as a pro athlete, it just wouldn’t be in the sport he’s been playing his whole childhood.

The current two time Grep Cup champion left guard for the Ottawa RedBlacks started his athletic career as a Belle River Rink Rat – Drew Desjarlais, who now stands at 6 ‘3” and 315 pounds, didn’t even have a thought of playing football as a young child.

“If you told me I would be a pro CFL player in grade six, I’d say what the hell is that and how are we getting there,” said Desjarlais.

Bigger than all the other players, it was hard to miss him out there on the ice. To go with the size there was a finesse to him as well which gave one of his hockey coaches Chris Moore an idea. He thought Desjarlais should go out and give football a shot.

“The kid was too big to be riding a motorbike in the summer,” said Moore. “He needed to be on a football field.”


It started in grade 8, when Desjarlais joined the Jr. Ravens in his local minor football league. Instantly, Drew was a stand out. His mix of size and speed let him dominate against the opposition and become a bright young star in the sport of football. After just one season, he was ready for even stronger competition and joined the Essex Ravens travel team.

This is where his love for the game grew, traveling across Ontario and taking on the best teams and players the province had to offer. Through Essex Ravens, Desjarlais was able to earn himself a spot on Team Ontario and Canada. With these teams he got the experience of traveling to Texas to take on their state’s All-Star team and even a trip to China for a world football tournament.

“I think back to how crazy that actually was going to China,” said Desjarlais. “Playing teams like China, USA, Mexico had to be the most unique football experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”

During this time, he was also a Windsor and Essex County Secondary School Athletic Association First-Team player at his high school, Belle River District High School.

The Next Level

Desjarlais’s outstanding play with the Essex Ravens and Belle River Nobles earned him a chance to play at just about every university in Canada and even had some looks from Division 1 schools across the border.

But ultimately, Desjarlais decided to stay home and attend the University of Windsor where he would study Criminology. The convenience of saving money, staying around friends and family was too hard to pass up.

Desjarlais back in his Ontario University Athletic football days (Courtesy: windsor Lancers)

Throughout his years at the University, although the team may have not found great success Desjarlais was undoubtedly a diamond in the rough. His high level of play garnered the attention of not only the CFL, but also the NFL, especially after making it to the East-West Bowl, an all star game for the best collegiate football players.

“It was in like my second year I realized I could really do something with this,” said Desjarlais. “I made it a goal to make it to the East-West Bowl which you can go to starting your third year.”

Now his play on the field may have brought in the eyes, but when teams saw him showcase his athleticism at the CFL combine, his stock skyrocketed like Gamestop in 2021. Seeing someone his size be able to move like he did was game changing for scouts across pro leagues.

“Man I worked out like crazy for the combine, maybe too much,” said Desjarlais. “A big thing for me was really the agility stuff, which I excelled at in the combine.”

A young Drew Desjarlais showcasing skills at CFL combine (Courtesy: CFL)

The Big Leagues

The NFL draft happens yearly and takes place months before the CFL draft. Although Desjarlais applied and was available during the NFL’s draft he ended up going undrafted, but teams still reached out to have him come to training camp and try out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants were both teams that invited him out to join their teams in minicamp, the New York Jets also flew him out for a private practice. With no team being a suitor, Desjarlais moved on and waited for the CFL draft. Once the CFL draft started, the wait wouldn’t last much longer.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers wasted no time, taking Desjarlais with the 4th pick of the draft. With an already strong run game and offensive line, adding Desjarlais to the mix took the team to the next level.

Drew Desjarlais block against the Edmonton Eskimos (Courtesy of: 3 Down Nation)

“Getting picked there was just the perfect fit with the scheme,” said Desjarlais. “Not only that but it was a great group of vets to learn from.”


Desjarlais spent the first eight weeks of the year as a backup, but once he saw the field there was no turning back. The Blue Bombers went on to run the table, claiming the biggest prize in the CFL, The Grey Cup in just his first year.

“Winning it all in the first year was just surreal,” said Desjarlais. “People go a whole career without winning one.”

Unfortunately with the COVID restrictions at the time, Desjarlais and the Bombers would not have a chance to defend their title the following year. Despite this he continued what got him here in the first place, hard work.

“I trained like we were still playing, coming off the year we had I didn’t want to lose momentum.” said Desjarlais.

The year passed and finally it was time to play football again. You would think there would be some rust because of the year off, but the Bombers didn’t miss a beat. They went on to not only win the west, but also claim another Grey Cup for the city of Winnipeg once again in an amazing comeback win over the Hamilton Tigers-Cats.

“Winning that 2021 championship without a doubt my favourite moment in my career,” said Desjarlais. “Coming off that long offseason it was such a prove it year to ourselves and the league.”

The Tea Party to The Bayou

After having just about the most successful start you can have to a career, winning a championship in both years, Desjarlais once again gathered NFL buzz. Teams were interested in signing him, therefore the Blue Bombers granted him a release so he could pursue the opportunity.

Desjarlais found himself playing for one of the most historic franchises in recent NFL history, the New England Patriots. He spent the pre-season playing for and learning from the historic coach Bill Bellichick while sharpening his craft.

“The experience was amazing,” said Desjarlais.

After the pre-season Desjarlais was waived by the Patriots, but it was just a day later when he found out he’d be packing his bags and heading south to New Orleans to join the Saints.

He went on to spend the majority of the NFL season with the Saints, developing his game with the practice squad and staying game ready. During his time in New Orleans Desjarlais not only got to play some football, but also met some amazing people. Quarterback Jameis Winston, who is loved by the internet for his funny quotes and wholesome personality, was one of them.

“Man that dude is just great, just an awesome teammate and guy.” said Desjalaris.

Drew Desjarlais with the New England Patriots taking on Carolina. (Courtesy: 3 Down Nation)


After the season in the NFL, Desjarlais received an offer to return to the Ottawa RedBlacks that was too good to refuse.

Along with the two year $255,000 annual contract that would make him the highest paid lineman in the league, there was something that lured Desjarlais back to Canada.

“Being on a practice squad is great but there’s just something about being on the field,” said Desjarlais. “The feeling of you contributing and being out there with your teammates is unmatched.”

Although his first season in Ottawa did not go as smoothly as hoped with a last place finish, the future continues to look bright for the 26 year old local standout.

Drew Desjarlais dressed in Ottawa’s Red and Black. (Courtesy: 3 Down Nation)


When it’s all said and done for his playing career, Desjarlais doesn’t want to leave the game behind.

“I’ve been thinking more about the idea of coaching,” said Desjarlais. “I’m really starting to see the payoff of it, helping players get better and reach their goals.”

From being the kid on the ice who never watched a football game, to being a two time champion and top player in the league is a testament to what you can do if you focus on your goals and put in the work.

For now, we get to watch as the local Windsor prodigy continues to make friends, family and fans proud and chase greatness.

Jessie Larouche
By Jessie Larouche November 6, 2023 17:50

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