A knee injury derailed his first CFL season, but Waterdown offensive lineman Dillon Guy is ready to make an impact with the Saskatchewan Roughriders this season.
Speaking to the Review after training in Burlington recently, the 6’ 4”, 335-pound Guy said he’s heading into the season healthy.
“I’m going in with the mindset of just competing, getting a spot on the roster and a spot on the starting line,” he said of his goals with the Roughriders.
Guy, a former University at Buffalo Bull, had knee surgery leading up to the 2016 CFL Draft. He said last season was a “whirlwind.”
Despite being the 14th-ranked prospect in the final 2016 CFL Draft – at one point he was ranked as high as seventh – injury concerns dropped Guy to the fourth round, where he was picked 30th-overall by the B.C. Lions.
“Seeing your name slide down the board was disheartening, but at the same time you understand it’s a business,” he explained. “Thankfully I got drafted by B.C. – they took a chance on me.”
He attended the Lions’ training camp and played in both preseason games, but B.C. cut him and assigned him to their practice roster. Guy declined, which allowed the Roughriders to sign him. He spent all of last season on Saskatchewan’s injured list.
“Went through training camp and it just didn’t work out,” he said of his time with the Lions. “I was thankful that the Saskatchewan Roughriders and coach (Chris) Jones brought me over.”
Guy said six months after surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, he was doing two-a-day workouts.
“Which, with an ACL (surgery), it’s been done but it’s really taxing,” he said. “Even though it’s repaired, most doctors say you’re not going to feel right until a year on.
“It was tough because there was stuff that I wanted to do with my body, but if I tried to take a step on a play, you’d always have that thought in your head.”
The Waterdown District High School graduate said he started feeling back to full strength last September.
“I’m very grateful to the (Roughriders) organization to take the time and let me rehab it right,” he said, noting that even though he didn’t play last season he learned a lot from sitting in on meetings. “I’m learning from veterans like Chris Best and Mike Clark.
“Just to soak in that knowledge, because it’s a different game than I was used to coming up from the University of Buffalo.”
Roughriders assistant GM John Murphy said Canadian offensive linemen are always attractive to CFL teams.
“We brought Dillon in for a pre-draft workout and he was trying to hustle and do everything he could to get back from what should have been a major injury that could have kept him out substantially longer,” Murphy recalled.
Murphy noted the Roughriders would likely have handled Guy’s situation differently if they had drafted him. He said a young player with the type of injury Guy had would have likely sat the year out as a redshirt player – one who practises and spends time around the team, but doesn’t play.
He added when Guy became available after last year’s preseason, Saskatchewan pitched that idea to Guy.
“We said, “If you want to buy into what we’re thinking the process should be – which is kind of go backward to go forward, then we’re all in,” he said. “With the expectation that what would come on the other side was what we saw in April (at mini camp).”
“A healthy guy – no pun intended.”
Guy said he expects the knowledge he gained from last season will put him in a good place heading into training camp.
“The game’s going to be slowed down,” he said, noting he also doesn’t have to get accustomed to teammates or the coaching staff. “I had a little bit of a preview when I was down in Florida (for mini camp) in April.
“Just going out there, running around, doing one-on-ones – my body felt great – I finally felt like myself out there.”
Murphy noted the fact that Guy was healthy enough to finish the three days of reps at mini camp was great to see.
“What you saw him put out there in terms of effort was exactly what you’re looking for out of a young player who was rehabbing from an injury,” he said. “He didn’t just take it at the slowest pace possible – he always wanted to do the next thing, he always wanted to make sure he was ready for whatever was presented to him next.”
Murphy added Guy’s progress is a nice payoff for the Roughriders.
“He wants to show you, ‘Hey this wasn’t a wasted investment – I’m going to be the guy, the player you expected,” he said. “We were nothing but pleasantly surprised by what we saw in April.”
The Roughriders training camp will get underway at the University of Saskatchewan’s campus in Saskatoon on May 28.
Heading into camp, Guy is focused.
“I just have to be consistent every single play,” he said, noting the coaching staff said his knee looks good and he’s moving around well. “That’s all they really wanted to see.”
Murphy said the Roughriders are looking to see consistency from Guy.
“There’s got to be consistency there every day – especially if you’re going to compete at the centre position – you have to be able to show that you know the calls and show that you’re tough enough to stand in there,” he said.
“As a young guy, keeping your head and your wits about you is just as important as the physical aspect of the game.
“When you’re getting to the live bullets in the game, it’s showing that physicality that he showed in film, showing the wanting to work to finish his blocks.”
Despite a tough first season, Guy said the CFL experience has been great.
“Especially being out in Riderville,” he said of Saskatchewan – where the Roughriders are the province’s only professional team. “It’s insane – coming from an American school I thought they took it seriously down in college, but the fans, how seriously they take it?
“It’s their game, it’s their team – it’s crazy – great fan base and great city to be in.”