CFLPA helps players broaden horizons with AU partnership
Now, thanks to a partnership between Athabasca University and Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA), his football career is now the means to think beyond the game and advance his education.
In fact, the offensive lineman with 2019 Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers states the reason he’s even able to pursue a degree while managing the demands of a professional football player is that he can tailor his school life around his football schedule.
“I’m just glad how flexible it can really be,” Desjarlais said. “I only have to be in courses in the winter, and I don’t have to worry about it during the season. It’s perfect.”
Football and education go hand in hand
Desjarlais recalls in high school when he came to realize that regardless what he thought about sitting in a classroom, he wouldn’t be able to achieve his football dreams without getting into university. With a sport like hockey, players may end up in junior leagues prior to going pro, but with football in Canada, players typically cut their teeth at the college level.
“The way football works, it’s pretty intertwined the whole way through,” he said.
So Desjarlais worked hard in school, and after finishing Grade 12, the Belle River, Ont. native joined the University of Windsor Lancers in 2015. And after a distinguished career at the university level, he was picked up by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the first round—fourth overall—of the 2019 CFL Draft.
But with the rigours of football training and working at a Chrysler plant in Windsor, he was not able to complete all his degree requirements after his four years with the team—he was short six courses to finish. So, when he heard about AU’s partnership with the CFLPA, he paid attention.
“It was one of the first weeks we had the player association meeting, he went through the partnership with Athabasca University, and I perked up,” he said. “I wanted to look into it because maybe it would make it easier for me to finish my degree.”
He got his ducks in a row, getting his transcripts and registration sorted out before the playoffs. While he was leaving it all on the field at the 2019 Grey Cup match in Calgary, he was already prepared for the off season, beyond the game.
“I’m just glad how flexible it can really be. I only have to be in courses in the winter, and I don’t have to worry about it during the season. It’s perfect.”– Drew Desjarlais
Athabasca University (AU) formally partnered with the CFLPA in June 2014 as the official education provider for their players, and in 2019 AU became the official education partner of the CFL as well as the CFL Alumni Association, expanding opportunities beyond the game for players, alumni and fans in Canada and around the world.
For CFLPA Executive Director Brian Ramsay, the opportunity this partnership provides to players like Desjarlais is a gamechanger.
“This partnership provides a fantastic opportunity for our members to reach their educational goals around their hectic schedules with the online capabilities allowing for ease of access wherever their travels may take them,” he said. “The importance of starting, continuing, or completing their education is paramount to our players and an important step in preparing for the next step in life, both on and off the field.”
AU’s Manager of Partnerships and Collaborations, Michael Shouldice, said AU maintains partnerships with dozens of outside organizations, and sees the CFLPA partnership as a perfect fit for both organizations.
“We provide a unique opportunity for our learners, with an open and online model that helps people overcome the barriers to success in post-secondary education,” he said. “We’re proud of how this partnership with the CFLPA is helping players to transform their lives.”
You can visit the Athabasca University webpage for more information about the programs and courses that can help you to transform your life and your community.