Riley Wilson joins CFL’s REDBLACKS
author: matt wincherauk | editor-in-chief
Former Ram signed in the nation’s capital
It was a surreal moment for Riley Wilson when the Ottawa REDBLACKS came calling back in December. The former standout University of Regina Rams slotback will soon ditch the green-and-gold for the red and black of the CFL’s Grey Cup Champions in the spring after signing a contract with the team recently. It’s still kind of a blur for Wilson, but he noted that it happened very quickly after receiving a text from his agent regarding Ottawa’s supposed interest.
“After the season was over, I got a text from my agent and he said there are teams interested, and Ottawa wants to sign you. So I said ‘what do I do? Do I wait?’ and he said he’ll talk to them and figure it out,” Wilson tells the Carillon. “Then about a week later, Ottawa called me and said they wanted me in their colours. They asked if I wanted to sign, and I said yes, absolutely. Of course I’m going to sign with the first team that wants me. I referred them to my agent and he got the contract stuff ready.”
Wilson’s signing was officially reported on the REDBLACKS’ website on Dec. 15. While Wilson never worked out personally for the REDBLACKS organization, he did note that the team had shown interest in him in last year’s CFL Draft. Wilson believes that their interest came mostly off his film from this past season, and they are hoping to see more out of him.
“They were one of the teams that had called me prior to the draft, so I knew I was on their radar. I think they were just hoping to see me have a big year, which I did, and they decided to pull the trigger.”
Wilson certainly did have a big season for the Regina Rams, in what could be considered their most successful season as a CIS/U Sports team. The Rams finished the season 6-2, and even hosted a playoff game under first-year head coach Steve Bryce, despite going 0-8 the season before under Mike Gibson. Wilson made 37 catches for over 600 yards and one touchdown in his fifth and final season with the Rams.
Now Wilson has to move from the comfort zone that he has established in his five-year career at the U of R, and attempt to gain his footing in the much faster and bigger CFL. While Wilson notes that it is tough to say how he will adapt, he has turned to a number of former players for advice, including another successful former Rams receiver.
“I’ve gotten advice and asked certain players like Addison Richards and a couple other guys, and they just said the speed is the biggest thing to get used to,” Wilson says. “Obviously I can’t say exactly what I’m going to do to change because I’ve never experienced it, but all I can do this offseason is get myself into the best shape I can possibly be in order to have the best possible transition. That’s all I can really do.”
Wilson has only been in contact with the REDBLACKS’ front office, and hasn’t been able to talk with coaches or players from the organization. Wilson notes that so far, “It’s pretty low-key,” and is still waiting for specific training camp dates. However, Wilson is not worried, and knows that he has to just stay focused on himself right now.
“So far, I’ve signed the contracts, and they’ve sent me a profile with what numbers I wanted. After that, I’m just waiting for training camp, which I’m assuming will start around March. There’s a rookie camp around April, which the rookies have to go to, and then the main camp starts in May.”
As for the remainder of school, Wilson knows that this puts him in a less than ideal position, but all he can do now is take things slowly, one semester at a time. Wilson plans to hopefully make the REDBLACKS roster, then come back later and finish as many classes as he can, repeating that process until a degree is achieved.
Looking back on his time with the Rams, Wilson believes it was a mostly positive experience for him, despite the aforementioned struggles that the team had. Signing with the REDBLACKS ultimately is the cherry on top of the sundae, capping off a solid career in university football.
“I think the fact that I got signed made me look back and say, ‘ok, it was worth something, and a good experience,’” Wilson explained. “But I think if I wouldn’t have [signed], I would’ve been thinking, well, this could’ve been different and I could’ve done this better. I probably would’ve had some regrets, especially when it comes to something like working out harder. If I didn’t make the team, I might have looked back on it in a more negative way, but obviously now, I would look back on it in a positive light.”
With his dream of making it to the CFL achieved for the time being, Wilson hopes that he might get a chance to do something special in the near future – come back and play against the hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders. Wilson understands that while he is the hometown boy, Rider fans will ultimately cheer for what is best for their team, but he also hopes that they might have a soft spot for him.
“I think everyone that knows me should cheer for me!” said Wilson with a big smile. “But, I don’t know. That’s one thing I hope that happens. Whether I get cut or not, hopefully there’s an exhibition game here so I for sure get to play the Riders in that new stadium.”
However, for right now, Wilson is just going to keep training for his chance to shine in the spotlight, relieved from the stress from having to go to another combine. His signing might have been a surreal moment for friends and family, but his work has only just started.