If 11th-hour negotiations between the Canadian Football League and its players union work out, Cobble Hill’s own Whitman Tomusiak will be suiting up for his first camp under contract with the BC Lions in Kamloops this weekend.
"Hopefully it goes through," he said.
"I’m definitely looking forward to it."
As of Thursday, the league and the union were trying to reach a labour agreement before the old deal expired at midnight.
Tomusiak attended Lions camp last year, but ended up staying with the junior Vancouver Island Raiders, while practicing with the Lions.
"I was junior-eligible last year, so I just practiced with them all year," he explained. "It didn’t count as a roster spot because of the junior exemption."
His junior career finished, he signed with the Lions last off-season, so now he’s battling for a roster spot.
"Training camp itself will be the same, but it’s a lot more real this time," he said. "I’m trying to make the team straight up; last year I was trying to make a name for myself."
Even though he has a contract, no one has a guaranteed spot, even the veterans.
"Anyone can be cut at any point," he said. "As a rookie, I’m not very secure."
Tomusiak expects to battle with seven or eight other Canadian receivers for four or five roster spots. Those are tough odds, but Tomusiak is confident in his abilities.
"I’m pretty optimistic," he said. "I know I can play at that level. I have no doubt about that."
In case he doesn’t make the cut, Tomusiak does have a backup plan. In the fall, he can join the University of Manitoba Bisons, where he would be reunited with Jordan Yantz, his longtime quarterback with the Raiders. Playing CIS football wouldn’t have a negative impact on his professional aspirations; in fact, it’s very unusual for players to join the CFL straight out of junior. Playing with the Raiders made that possible, Tomusiak said.
"The Raiders are like a pro team; they have an owner instead of being community-owned," he said. "They get the best talent in Canada. If you’re going to play junior anywhere, that’s probably the best place to play."
Tomusiak got his start in football with the team then known as the Cowichan Chiefs in Grade 4 and 5, then left the sport for a few years until joining the Cowichan Bulldogs in Grade 10. After one year of football back in Cowichan, he went north to finish his midget career with the Nanaimo Redmen.
Tomusiak still appreciates what the Cowichan programs did to help him get a foothold in the sport and help get to the Lions camp "It’s fantastic that the community has a team and supports it," he said. "That definitely helped me."