As the Alberta Football League (AFL) gears up for another exciting season, teams from across the province are getting into off-season training with the hopes of capturing the ever-elusive championship. Meanwhile, in Mexico, former Fighter Jet Drew Morris is gearing up for his debut with the Queretaro Pioneros.
Morris, a former CFL linebacker, captivated Cold Lake fans in 2019. After learning he was being released by the Ottawa Redblacks back in June, he loaded up his truck and took the 36-hour trek west to try his hand at AFL ball.
It was here Morris proved why he was a standout defender with the Acadia University CIS football team. In his first game with the Fighter Jets, he had 9 tackles and dominated the line of scrimmage. It didn’t take long for scouts abroad to begin to see his potential.
“My time with the Jets in the AFL had a huge hand in getting me drafted down here. My play up there opened the eyes to some scouts and thus the door to other leagues,” said Morris. “That, coupled with the network of people I met during my time playing in Cold Lake, Kyle LeBlanc coming to mind, who played for the Pioneros in 2019 before heading back to play for Cold Lake, was a huge reason as to why this team drafted me and was instrumental in the scouting process according to the coaches here.”
Morris was drafted 11th overall in the Mexican-based Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional (LFA), which collaborates with the CFL to showcase top-level talent and help further develop elite athletes in a highly competitive environment.
“Initially my thoughts were pure excitement to be drafted to the LFA,” he expressed. “It is a new partner with the CFL with aims to develop football on a global scale. Being part of history is not something that falls into your lap everyday, and I am truly grateful to the LFA, the CFL, and for giving me the opportunity to teach, learn, and demonstrate every aspect of my ability to this the Queretaro Pioneros beautiful game.”
Despite being so far south of the border, while travelling to Mexico Morris met a new teammate from the Lakeland area: Jeremy Fagnan, a Bonnyville-native and well-known football standout in the region. The pair quickly found out the coincidences didn’t stop there.
“Jeremy has been great. We’ve chatted a bunch about the west coast (Bonnyville) and the east coast (Nova Scotia) where we both ended up going to university (he at St.FX and myself at Acadia). We are both pretty big into history and have been touring the city together ever chance we get. Meeting the locals, seeing the history from ancient civilizations, and trying all the authentic street food we can! Of course, we frequently joke about how we sometimes miss eating a good ol’ beaver tail or poutine. In all honesty It just goes to show how small of a world it really is though.”
For Morris, the transition to playing football a 48-hour drive south of Cold Lake has been one he’s taken in stride. Originally from a small rural Ontario town of just 2,400 people, the Canadian linebacker has fully embraced his new role in the City of Queretaro, which boasts a population of around 900,000.
“Coming from Ottawa (the small country town of Osgoode) it’s been an adjustment. The people here are amazing and treat you with the utmost respect. Being an average of 5 inches taller and 60 lbs heavier than everyone, not to mention being one of the few white guys in the city, you stick out like a sore thumb, and people know who you are and what you’re here for.”
He added, “Football players (especially imports) are put on a pedestal here. It is a sport that has quickly become popular, and the fans are going crazy for it and the players. That being said, you are always a representative for the organization, league, and in my case… Canadians. The adjustment itself has been minimal besides the weather of course, it took me about a week to climatize out of my winter skin, otherwise I am settled and ready for battle.”
The LFA season begins in just a few weeks for Morris and the Pioneros. Ready to finally play for the first time since August, it’s also an opportunity for Morris to showcase his talent, which is something the 240-lb defender relishes.
“The thing I’m looking forward to most this LFA season is showing the owners, coaches, and teammates of mine just how good of a call it was drafting me here. I was 11th overall and so grateful for the chance, I have not flipped that gameday switch yet (first game is Feb. 8) and I really don’t think anybody has any expectations as to what happens when I do. I’m definitely excited for that.”
The Fighter Jets would like to wish Drew and Jeremy all the best in 2020 with the Pioneros. When Drew joined the squad in the team’s inaugural season, his work ethic and leadership became cornerstones of the program and helped to create a new identity which the team plans to build on for 2020.