Folks who followed the football success of former Canyon Country resident Drew Wolitarsky watched him advance from the Outlaws in the Pacific Youth League to breaking records at Canyon High School. Then they had to turn on their televisions to watch the wide receiver at the University of Minnesota for the last four years, but fans should stay tuned. This season they can watch him play on TV again by just changing channels.
You could tell Wolitarsky’s athletic talent would take him places, but talk about long bombs — his latest catch is north of the border with the Canadian Football League, or CFL. He is now number 80 on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
And in a hint of irony, it was July Fourth, the birthday of the United States, that new Canadian Drew Wolitarsky and his Canadian mother, Audrey, set out from Minneapolis to his new home in the province of Manitoba.
Drew had applied for Canadian citizenship on May 31 and in just one day it was processed and his certificate was sent out to him on June 1.
“In order to play in the CFL and have a better opportunity to stay in the league I needed to get my Canadian citizenship, and as my mother was born in Montreal I had the access to my citizenship in Canada,” Drew said. “So, 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.”
You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to play in the CFL, but it is a sizable advantage to be Canadian, because there have to be a certain number of Canadians on the field at a certain time, he explained. On Tuesday, June 27, the recent University of Minnesota graduate took a call from the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who confirmed they had drafted him.
“I’ve been to Canada several times growing up and was just in Montreal to see the place where my parents grew up together. (I have) a lot of roots in the Great White North,” Drew said. “As someone who enjoys writing, I like to be able to pull things from memory of places I›ve been and sights from where I’ve lived.”
Drew Wolitarsky’s team is more than 2,000 miles from Montreal in the province of Quebec, where his parents — John and Audrey — met as teenagers.
“I’ve never been to the prairies,” John said. “It’s always fun to travel to stadiums to see your boy play!”
Audrey was charmed by her visit. “Winnipeg has some really cool attractions,” she said, “including an adorable French neighborhood that I can tell will be my son’s favorite hangout.”
There are many Americans playing in the Canadian Football League, said Drew, who did not give up his American citizenship in the process. The teams are made up of various aged players, some over 30 years old, with families, and others close to Drew’s age of 22.
“I like to be on the move,” he said. “I came to Minnesota to gain a different perspective and familiarize myself with a different way of living. So, moving again is something I’m very excited about.”
In addition to establishing a new home, of sorts, Drew has to adapt to his new job, which includes memorizing a large playbook. Football in the CFL is a similar game, but has many different rules, he said, but the basis of scoring and receiving first downs remains the same.
“From green and gold to maroon and gold and now to blue and gold, I’m proud of Drew for his dedication and hard work,” said John Wolitarsky. “He’ll be a great ambassador to the Blue Bombers and the CFL.”