OTTAWA (CIS) – David Onyemata, a defensive lineman from the University of Manitoba, became Saturday the 12th player in CIS history to be selected in the National Football League draft when the New Orleans Saint picked him in the fourth round - 120th overall.
A native of Lagos, Nigeria who had never played football before he moved to Canada five years ago, Onyemata is the fourth CIS player to be drafted by an NFL team over the past eight years, joining offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the McGill Redmen (2014, Kansas City, 6th round, 200th overall) as well as defensive ends Akiem Hicks of the Regina Rams (2012, New Orleans, 3rd round, 89th overall) and Vaughn Martin of the Western Mustangs (2009, San Diego, 4th round, 113th overall).
He also became the first-ever member of the Bisons program selected by an NFL squad.
"I'm feeling really good... so pumped right now," said Onyemata. "I found out about being picked as I was on the golf course."
"It's such a wonderful Cinderella story. We are all excited for David," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie. "It's big for the entire locker room. David is such a great person and class act. Everybody involved with the program is happy and wishing the best for him as he embarks onto the next level in the NFL.
"David represents the best in all of us. There is a sense of immense pride in seeing him drafted in the NFL. I think his journey and success is represented in all of us in the CIS and his Bison teammates and everybody have a little bit of ownership of him."
Onyemata, a six-foot-four, 300-pound arts student, enjoyed a dream season last fall in his fourth year with Manitoba. He was named a Canada West all-star for the second straight campaign, was recognized as an all-Canadian for the first time, and claimed the J.P. Metras Trophy as the top down lineman in CIS football. Despite being double-teamed on most plays, the 23-year-old was second in his conference and ninth in the country with five sacks in eight league games and also ranked second in Canada West in tackles for a loss (7.5) and 12th in overall tackles (38.5).
One of three CIS players invited to take part in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game in Florida last January, Onyemata impressed scouts from 17 NFL teams at his pro day workout in Winnipeg on March 14. He is also ranked No. 1 by the CFL's Scouting Bureau heading into the league's May 10 draft.
Below is a list of CIS players drafted into the NFL, as well as an all-time list of CIS graduates who played at least one official NFL game.
NOTES: To date, the only member of the Bisons program to play in the NFL is defensive end Israel Idonije who, like Onyemata, was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Idonije, whose family moved to Brandon, Man., when he was four years old and who played for the Bisons from 2000 to 2002, originally signed as a free-agent with Cleveland in 2003 and went on to an outstanding decade-long NFL career with Chicago (2004-2012) and Detroit (2013). He played in Super Bowl XLI in 2007 and was one of three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award following the 2010 season... The University of Manitoba did produce another NFL player back in the 1940s, offensive tackle Les Lear, but the North Dakota native who grew up in Manitoba never played for the Bisons. Lear, who was the first Canadian-developed player to reach the NFL and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1974, suited up for Cleveland (1944-1945), the Los Angeles Rams (1946) and Detroit (1947).
CIS PLAYERS DRAFTED INTO NFL (12)
2016: David Onyemata (DL / Manitoba), by New Orleans, 4th round, 120th overall
2014: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (OT / McGill), by Kansas City, 6th round, 200th overall
2012: Akiem Hicks (DE / Regina), by New Orleans, 3rd round, 89th overall
2009: Vaughn Martin (DE / Western), by San Diego, 4th round, 113th overall
2001: Randy Chevrier (DE / McGill), by Jacksonville, 7th round, 241st overall
1998: Jerome Pathon (WR / Acadia), by Indianapolis, 2nd round, 32nd overall
1995: Mark Montreuil (CB / Concordia), by San Diego, 7th round, 237th overall
1992: Tyrone Williams (WR / Western), by Phoenix, 9th round, 239th overall
1986: Mike Schad (OG / Queen's), by LA Rams, 1st round, 23rd overall
1982: Dan Feraday (QB / Toronto), by Cincinnati, 12th round, 333rd overall
1979: John Priestner (LB / Western), by Baltimore, 11th round, 280th overall
1976: Brian Fryer (REC / Alberta), by Washington, 8th round, 234th overall
CIS PLAYERS IN THE NFL (29) - played at least one regular season or playoff game
Tyler Varga, RB, Western (Indianapolis 2015-present)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OG, McGill (Kansas City 2014-present)
David Foucault, OT, Montreal (Carolina 2014-present)
Henoc Muamba, LB, StFX (Indianapolis 2014)
Stefan Charles, DT, Regina (Detroit present / Buffalo 2013-2015)
Akiem Hicks, DE, Regina (Chicago present / New England 2015 / New Orleans 2012-2015)
Jon Ryan, P, Regina (Seattle 2008-present / Green Bay 2006-2007)
Cory Greenwood, LB, Concordia (Kansas City 2010-2012)
Vaughn Martin, DT, Western (Miami 2013 / San Diego 2009-2012)
Israel Idonije, DE, Manitoba (Detroit 2013 / Chicago 2004-2012)
Samuel Giguère, WR, Sherbrooke (Indianapolis 2009)
Dan Federkeil, OL, Calgary (Indianapolis 2006-2009)
Steve Morley, OG/OT, Saint Mary's (New York Jets 2005)
Randy Chevrier, LS/DE, McGill (Dallas & Cincinnati 2001)
Jean-Philippe Darche, LS, McGill (Seattle 2000-2006 / Kansas City 2007-2008)
Jerome Pathon, REC, Acadia (Indianapolis 1998-2001 / New Orleans 2002-2004 / Atlanta 2005)
Tim Tindale, RB, Western (Buffalo 1995-1997)
Mark Montreuil, CB, Concordia (San Diego 1995-1997)
Tyrone Williams, WR, Western (Dallas 1993)
Dean Dorsey, K, Toronto (Green Bay & Philadelphia 1988)
Brant Bengen, WR, UBC (Seattle 1987)
Dave Sparenberg, OG, Western (Cleveland 1987)
Brian Belway, DE, Calgary (Los Angeles Raiders 1987)
Mike Schad, OG, Queen's (Los Angeles Rams 1987-1988 / Philadelphia 1989-1993)
Ken Clark, P, Saint Mary's (Los Angeles Rams 1979)
Brian Fryer, REC, Alberta (Washington 1976)
Jim Young, RB/REC, Queen's (Minnesota 1965-1966)
Bill Crawford, OG, UBC (New York Giants 1960)
Joe Krol, K/RB, Western (Detroit 1945)