Doubles Down on Citizenship and Prospects
Professional football player Drew Wolitarsky was number 21 on the Canyon Cowboys, number 82 on the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and now he is number 80 on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, playing in the Canadian Football League.
But in the hearts of many Canyon Country residents he’s still number one.
While at Canyon High School he broke records as a wide receiver, cracking the ceiling on total receiving yards and total number of receptions among all California high school football players that came before him. His stats took him north to Minnesota, where he found a place among the top 10 receivers in Gopher history for his performance. Then he went prospecting north of the border to begin his professional career. His mother, Audrey, is originally from Canada, and Drew decided to take advantage of his dual heritage. All he needed was the paperwork proving his Canadian citizenship.
“Once we got all of that figured out, my agent started contacting teams and letting them know that I was eligible to play in the CFL,” he explained. “You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to play in the CFL, but it is a large advantage to be Canadian because there have to be a certain number of Canadians on the field at all times.”
He got the citizenship papers in time for the supplemental draft and was chosen by the team in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
There are many Americans playing in the Canadian Football League, said Wolitarsky, who did not give up his American citizenship in the process. He described the game in the CFL as having many different rules, but the basis of scoring and receiving first downs remains the same.
“I would say that the difference from college to the CFL is not as drastic as it was from high school to college,” he said, adding that in both cases it involves learning a new offense and the intricacies of the playbook. “The game slows down when there is less you have to process, and the more you can simply react. The style of play was a little funky at first to get down. It just takes a lot of repetition and getting a feel for motioning before the ball is snapped. I’m a lot more comfortable with it now and have pretty good timing!”
When asked to describe what he left behind, Wolitarsky has a lot of praise for the Canyon Cowboys staff.
“I miss playing for Canyon because it was simply fun. There was no business attached to it,” he said. “It was just people who wanted to play and coaches who coached because they wanted to see their kids go on to do great things. I really miss my coaches from the early years. They were great motivators and definitely helped guide me to where I am today. Teachers are underrated — both in the class and on the field. I can attest to that!”
At the University of Minnesota, Wolitarsky had as much success in the classroom as on the field, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English.
“I miss the community in Minnesota — people my age, students, friends,” he described. “Everything was close and all my friends were within a small vicinity. I miss just being with my old team. I know I will get to that same place with my new one, but after four years in college you get pretty tight with all your teammates, and I miss that feeling.”
The CFL season differs from the NFL, partly due to the expected temperatures nearing -40 degrees (Fahrenheit and Celsius). He currently practices up to four days a week and sometimes has games that are less than seven days apart. But the season ends soon, lasting six months total, and many of the players have off-season jobs.
As Wolitarsky is new to the team and its lifestyle, he isn’t sure what the off-season will look like for him. But year round, he is likely to focus on the interpersonal side of life.
“One of the main reasons I play is to form friendships and constantly improve myself, both on and off the field,” he said. “I would say my expectations have been happily met, although not easily!”