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Keon Edwards and Francis Bemiy sat on a conference call on Thursday as two different athletes on two different paths with similar stories.
Edwards worked his way up Western’s depth chart over the last three seasons to become the team’s top running back. The five-foot-11, 230-pound Toronto native was U SPORTS’ top rusher in 2022, with 1,032 yards on 130 carries, good for an eye-popping 129 yards per game, while adding eight touchdowns for the Mustangs.
Bemiy, a six-foot-four, 270-pound defensive lineman, left his family behind in Montreal to attend Riverside Christian High School in California. That led to a spot at Southern Utah University, where over 49 games with the Thunderbirds, he had 163 total tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
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Next week, their two differing paths will lead them to Edmonton, where they’ll work to impress scouts, coaches and general managers at the CFL Combine presented by New Era.
Bemiy, who had 26 total tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2022 with the Thunderbirds, is the 12th-ranked prospect in the Winter edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau. Edwards, who was named the OUA MVP in 2022 and posted his second consecutive 1,000-plus-yard rushing season, hasn’t cracked the top-20 list yet this year.
Let’s start with that.
“Growing up I was never highly ranked,” Edwards said. “For me, I’m the type of guy that will be quiet and then go work off on his own and then try to find his way out. If you put me in a cage, it’s like the dog, I need to make my way out and find a way to be good.
“Even coming into Western, there was Alex Taylor, Cedric (Joseph), there was Trey Humes. I had known what I was getting into. Coaches, players were telling me, ‘Why would you go to a school that has their backs set for the next four years?’ I told them, ‘I’d rather earn my way up than concede to something that may not be the best choice for me.’ I always like to prove myself and I think that’s always been my journey. Of course it’s nice to see the flowers, but the ranking and everything like that it doesn’t really faze me at all.”
That’s a story that resonated with the other guy on the screen in that prospect call. As a high schooler, Bemiy sought out a playing opportunity in the States because he wasn’t progressing the way he wanted to.
“When I was playing in Montreal I was always kind of slept on, no one knew who I was. I tried out for all these different all-star teams and I ended up getting cut from most of them,” he said, laughing at the memory.
“If anything, I’m kind of blessed (for the journey). I’m trying not to take anything for granted.”
Moving across the continent in the middle of high school wasn’t easy for Bemiy.
“It’s hard because you’re to yourself a lot of times. You don’t have mom and dad to call if you have problems. You have to learn to do it on your own,” he said.
“That’s probably the hardest thing, is dealing with stuff on your own. It’s a part of growing up, the older you get the more responsibility you take on. I think I’ve done pretty good, to dealing with being on my own to end up at this point where I’ve got an opportunity to play in the CFL, which was my ultimate goal in the end.”
Through two different journeys, Edwards and Bemiy will land in Edmonton next week, competing in the CFL Combine from March 22-26. Both see an opportunity to get in front of teams and continue their respective climbs, where their work can set them apart from the others around them.
“I just want to go in there and showcase what I can do, show that I can compete, show what I’ve been working for the past four years at Southern Utah. Just showcase my skills and what I can do and do it to the best of my abilities,” Bemiy said.
“I’m going to go show my skill set, show what I can do. I’m really excited for the practice portion of it,” Edwards said, referencing the three days that prospects will spend working with coaches in a practice-like environment.
“I feel like that is probably one of the best aspects I’ll be able to perform at, is actually showing what I can do out on the field.”
If it goes to plan for both of them, it’s just the next step in a long and rewarding journey.