Calgary's Kwadwo Boahen in mix for defensive line spot on Stampeders

Jobs on the line for hopefuls of CFL squad that’s in Winnipeg for pre-season action Friday night

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Kwadwo Boahen was admittedly feeling uneasy in his return this spring to McMahon Stadium.

That came a year after his first taste of professional football — rookie camp with the Calgary Stampeders.

“Honestly, the first couple of days at training camp, I was nervous,” said the Calgary native and former high school star with the Bishop McNally Timberwolves. “I was like, ‘Man, did I do enough in the off-season? Did I lift enough weights? Did I run enough?

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“But then day by day, the coaches showed they had trust and faith in me to give me enough opportunities.”

And suddenly, the local product and big guy is right in the mix to be a starter along the defensive line for the Stampeders.

Not bad for a CFL freshman, with just two rookie camps and half of one main camp — and counting — under his belt.

Boahen, at 6-foot-1, 279 lb., is just 23 but gets his chance to shine in a bid for a starter’s role in Friday night’s pre-season visit by the Stamps to play the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6:30 p.m., QR Calgary).

“It’s very close, and there’s some really good battles on the defensive line,” said Stamps GM/head coach Dave Dickenson. “You’ve got to give them some reps. You’ve got to give them a chance to really show what they can do.

“We’ll have 12-14 guys (rotating into the d-line spots). And I think this game really will matter as to who makes it. I do think some guys have taken the lead, but we’ll see if they can keep that lead.”

Three spots appear secure on the defensive front, with veterans Mike Rose, Julian Howsare and James Vaughters at weak-side end, strong-side tackle and edge, respectively.

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But the nose-guard — or weak-side tackle — spot is up for grabs with the departure of steady defender Derek Wiggan, and Boahen is hoping to grab that duty.

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The competition includes the likes of Americans Josiah Coatney, Will Choloh and Jacques Bristol, who are all expected to get reps at that nose-guard position in Friday’s contest.

“I definitely do think I’m in the mix this year,” said Boahen, who spent last year wrapping up his university football career with the U SPORTS Alberta Golden Bears. “I think I’ve had a pretty good camp. Obviously, nothing’s been perfect, but nothing’s been horrible either. The biggest thing is making sure I’m getting better every day. And I think I’ve done a decent job of doing that. I’m getting the support from the guys and the coaches, and that also means so much to me, too, right?”

Right, agrees the coach.

“Kwad’s young,” said Dickenson, of the Stamps’ third-round — 22nd overall — pick in the 2023 CFL Draft. “This year, I think he’s kind of grown up as a man a little bit. He’s got strength and just looks a little more confident in there. I think he’s got a lot of ceiling — he’s got a lot of improving that he will do. From last year’s camp to this year’s camp, he’s better. Last year playing for the U of A, I thought he did some really good things, but now he’s got to do that against professional linemen.

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“He’s had his share of wins, and I just believe he’s got a lot of growth — and he can get there.”

Kwadwo Boahen
Defensive lineman Kwadwo Boahen takes part in the Calgary Stampeders’ rookie camp at McMahon Stadium on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

It helps that Boahen’s the only Canadian vying for the nose-guard duties, making him a ratio-breaker to help the team continue to play American Branden Dozier — a proven veteran — at safety, if Dickenson & Co. choose to do so.

But there are other talents bidding to make their mark along the line, as well.

Other d-linemen in the lineup for the Winnipeg game are Americans Clarence Hicks, Toby Ndukwe, Cody Roscoe, Charles Wiley, Damontre Moore, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Darius Hodge, while the two Canadian d-linemen joining Boahen are fellow 2023 draftee Ryan Leder and 2024 draft-pick George Idoko.

“Honestly, the past year has been crazy,” Boahen said. “Being here and then going back to school and having a great season, I’m happy. You come to the pros, and you just want to be here and you want to play, but you also have to know that it’s a journey and nothing ever just comes easy, so you have to go through those trials.

“And for me, I had to go back to school and get stronger and get bigger and work on technique stuff — and that’s what I did.

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“At first, I was frustrated. I was like, ‘I’m a pro football player — I don’t want to be back at college,’” added Boahen. “But being around my coaches and the great staff we had at the U of A, they kept my head straight and kept me working on the right things. So towards the end of the season, I was like, ‘Yeah … I’m so excited that I came back and I was able to work on these techniques at a slower pace.’ It helped me elevate my game here.

“I’m happy to be back here and grateful to have the opportunity that’s been presented to me.”

SHORT YARDAGE

DB Dozier is not with the team in Winnipeg. Same goes for fellow defensive veterans Rose, Howsare, Vaughters, LB Cam Judge, LB Micah Awe and LB Darius Williams … Offensively, RB B.J. Emmons isn’t on the trip east. Same goes for QB Tommy Stevens, K René Paredes, RB William Langlais, OL Sean McEwen, OL Kyle Saxelid (injured), WR Isaiah Epps, WR Cole Tucker and WR Ishmael Hyman … WR Jalen Philpot slots in at slotback for the Stamps against the Blue Bombers, as does WR Colton Hunchak, who just joined the team Wednesday.

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X: @ToddSaelhofPM

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