Football program has historic NFL, CFL drafts

The UBC football program had some incredible successes this year — an undefeated record for home games, their 17th Hardy Cup win and their first Vanier Cup appearance since 2015. But none are larger than the 2024 NFL and CFL drafts.

Giovanni Manu made headlines as the first player to be drafted from the NFL straight from UBC. The Detroit Lions selected the 6’8 offensive linesman at 126th overall on April 27.

“We’re going to fucking Detroit,” were the first words Manu said to his family and friends once he got the phone call with the offer from Detroit head coach Dan Campbell.

“I was just so ecstatic, all the emotions were running through me,” he said later in an interview with UBC Athletics.

Additionally, seven players were drafted to the CFL on April 30.

Theo Benedet, who went undrafted in the NFL Draft despite being a top prospect, was the highest UBC draft for the CFL at 15th overall. He was drafted to his hometown team, the BC Lions. Benedet earned his second JP Metras Trophy for best linesman in U Sports for the 2023 season.

Tight end Brad Hladik and defensive lineman Kyle Samson finished off the second round, being drafted by the Edmonton Elks at 18th overall and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 20th overall, respectively.

Jerrell Cummings (Toronto Argonauts), Ryan Baker (Hamilton Tiger-Cats) and Manu (Winnipeg Blue Bombers) were all drafted in the fifth round, although Manu will first pursue his NFL career. After being drafted 70th overall in round eight, Mitchell Townsend will join Baker in Hamilton.

This is the largest CFL draft class from UBC since 1987, when seven T-Birds were also drafted. Last year, only three ‘Birds were drafted.

Although Benedet was drafted by the Lions, he signed a $100,000 deal with the Chicago Bears of the NFL as a free agent. He attended the Lions’ rookie tour to their home stadium, Soldier Field, on Friday according to the team’s Instagram page.

“To be a Chicago Bear is surreal and crazy,” said Benedet, shortly after signing his contract.

The CFL season officially kicks off June 6 while the NFL won’t start until September 5.