MINOT – While many Beavers who walk across the stage next week during graduation will wonder what the future holds, for Minot State football player Troy Kowal, his next step was announced Tuesday night.
Kowal, a Professional Communication major who began his career in the classroom and on the gridiron for the Beavers in the fall of 2017, was selected with the 70th pick by the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League during the CFL’s 2023 Draft last night, making him the second Beaver in the last two years to move on to play professional football.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Kowal who graduates next Friday, May 12, then starts his professional career as the Lions training camp opens next week. “It’s something you dream of, and to accomplish it is unbelievable. I’m thankful to have had the support from my teammates, coaches, and family!”
One of those Minot State teammates is Sebastian Gutierrez who signed as an undrafted free agent last spring with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, and after spending time on practice squads in the NFL played in one game with the Las Vegas Raiders.
As for playing in the CFL, Kowal follows in the footsteps of former Beaver offensive lineman Dalton Houghton, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2018, and defensive end Dexter Ross, the last Beaver drafted by the CFL, picked 49th in 2006 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
A native of High River, Alberta, Kowal’s potential first pro game will be May 27, a preseason contest at Saskatchewan, followed by another preseason game at home in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 1.
The season opener for the Lions and Kowal would be a homecoming for the soon-to-be Minot State grad, playing at the Calgary Stampede on June 8 – about 40 miles away from High River.
Of course, Kowal recognizes there will be plenty of adjustments to make as he moves on to the next level, and not just in terms of some of the minor rule difference in the CFL compared to college and pro football in the United States.
“I think it’s going to be like when I came down from Canada,” he said. “I have to learn to get use to the change of the D-line now being a yard off the ball. It took a few weeks to get used to it when I was a freshman. Hopefully I pick it up quickly.
“I think the speed will be different too,” Kowal added. “I talked with (Sebastian Gutierrez) and he said the big change is the speed, so getting myself ready for that will be important. Everything’s a step up from college now, right? So I’ve got to play with speed.”
Along with the excitement of being drafted and getting a shot to play pro ball, there’s plenty of other reasons this first step in his professional career is exciting.
“I’m very excited to go to BC, my mom is from Washington state and my dad is from British Columbia so I’ve got family in the area,” he said.
Plus, Kowal joins a title contended as the Lions were 12-6 last season and advanced to the West Division final, a game shy of the Grey Cup.
“I’m excited to chase the Grey Cup, it’s our Super Bowl in Canada and to have the chance to win it and make a playoff run is very exciting for me!”