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'Football is football': Riders' receiver Ajou Ajou excited to be back in Canada

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Ajou Ajou was a seventh round pick in this year’s Canadian Football League [CFL] Draft but he is already garnering attention in Rider Nation after his performance in the team’s first pre-season game.

Ajou had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown against Winnipeg on Monday.

“It’s been good. I mean I don’t really know what you say but I’m playing football so I’m just glad I get to come out here every day and participate in the sport I love with my boys,” Ajou said.

Ajou grew up in Brooks, Alta. but later moved to Edmonton during his high school athletic career to pursue greater options when it came to not just football but basketball as well. On Saturday he will return to Edmonton for the team’s next pre-season matchup against the Elks and Ajou says he is excited to get back to his Alberta roots for the first time in almost six years.

“For sure, I’m going to be back in my city, so it’s going to be nice,” he said. “[My old] coach is going to come out, I hope some of my friends come out. The last time I got to play football there was eleventh grade.”

In order to garner more NCAA attention Ajou transferred to Clearwater Academy International in Florida in his Grade 11 year. A prep school that was regularly attended by Canadian football players hoping to play college down south.

From there Ajou signed at Clemson University in South Carolina. He played 22 games making 8 receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown from 2020-22 but later transferred to South Florida University.

“Long story short I got to Clemson, I was a torn buck. I didn’t really want to trust the process, I was getting greedy in a sense. I just wanted that instant gratification, everyone was 18 at one point right,” Ajou said.

Ajou only played one game at South Florida and missed the rest of the season due to a hernia injury. He finished off his collegiate career at Garden City Community College (2023) where he recorded 17 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

“Went to USF and suffered a season ending injury. We didn’t do too well that season. [Then] a new coaching staff came in. I was still recovering from a hernia and wasn’t performing to the level that I knew I could perform. Ultimately we came to the conclusion I should go elsewhere. No hard feelings. Went to GCCO and got my hand in the dirt, got to play some tight end. And after that I t was great. A great little process. I feel Ling everything happens for a reason. Now I’m a Roughrider,” Ajou said.

When asked how he is adjusting getting back to the Canadian style of game, Ajou did not hesitate.

“Football is football at the end of the day. I’m confident, this is where it all started right? So it’s muscle memory. I have to say shoutout to my boy Shea [Patterson], he saw me and he delivered,” said Ajou referring to his touchdown in the pre-season game.

Patterson humbly gave him the love right back.

“Ajou saved me over the middle on that zero coverage so that was an awesome play from him,” Patterson said.

Other teammates, who are also receivers like Ajou, are also giving him praise.

“My friend was talking to me right before training camp talking about how he [Ajou] is a freak athlete. So I was excited to come and see what he has to offer. I mean it’s ever easy learning the Canadian football game versus playing the American style but he’s picked it up very quick. He’s a sponge out there and learning from everyone,” said Kian Schaffer-Baker.

“He’s a great guy. He might be the funniest on the team,” Samuel Emilus said with a laugh.

Emilus is also a Canadian receiver who spent his college years playing in the States.

“He just wants to learn. He’s doing great so far. It takes practice to get used to that waggle. He played in Canadian leagues before though so he’s getting accustomed to it pretty quick. Me being Canadian and playing the States and him doing the same, you know we have kind of the same background so I’m going to try and be a good vet and make sure he’s ready,” Emilus shared.

The Riders have just one pre-season game remaining for guys to showcase their talent that are trying to crack the roster and head coach, Corey Mace, did not hold back when it came to his expectations.

“For him [Ajou] he can’t be a one trick pony at the professional level. I was really happy with him and the game he had last week. But he had to level up this week you know potentially more on his plate. It’s just understanding professional football. So consistency is what we’re looking for and we’ll see what he can do,” Mace said.

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