It was a very productive start to the work week for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Already feeling good about their day thanks to a fortunate supplemental draft position in the morning -- more on that in a second -- the Bombers finally got non-import linebacker Henoc Muamba to sign his name to a contract late Monday afternoon.
Muamba, the first overall selection in the 2011 CFL college draft earlier this month, is considered by many to be as close to a sure-fire Canadian prospect there is. The 6-foot, 230-pound St. Francis Xavier product won the President's Trophy last season, which is given to the top defensive player in the CIS. The talented linebacker leaves St. F-X as the school's all-time leader in tackles (149.5), with 63.5 of those coming in his senior season.
With Bombers rookie camp slated to begin Wednesday, the 22-year-old wasn't worried that a deal wouldn't get done in time.
"It's a process and I'm a patient guy," he said via phone Monday evening. "It didn't really faze me. I had the total confidence in my agent and I knew it would get done.
"I'm happy to officially be a part of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers."
Muamba stressed the 'official' part of the announcement thanks to a report that surfaced Friday evening. A bizarre misunderstanding between the club and the agent as to what a 'two-year-plus an option' contract actually meant led to a premature report that Muamba was a part of the Bomb Squad. Both sides disputed the report, agreed to keep talking, and negotiations continued throughout the weekend.
"It was a strange situation, there were some things said that weren't true and that led to some more confusion," said Muamba. "I'm looking forward to just worrying about football now." Terms of the deal were not released.
The Bombers woke up on the right side of the bed hours before the Muamba announcement, when they took wide receiver Kito Poblah with the first pick in the 2011 CFL supplemental draft.
By selecting the athletic 6-foot-2, 213-pound pass catcher out of Central Michigan, a player who became eligible for his non-import status less than two weeks ago, the Bombers forfeit their first-round selection in the 2012 CFL draft. That puts Poblah as another first-round selection -- joining Muamba and WR Jade Etienne (fourth overall) -- and essentially gives the Blue and Gold three first-round picks this off-season.
For Winnipeg, Poblah is another high-level cog added to the improving Canadian machine.
"We're hoping some of them can be impact players," Bombers coach Paul LaPolice said Monday, speaking of Winnipeg's influx of blue-chip Canucks. "We're not forcing them to be impact players -- they're going to tell us whether they can be impact players or not."
Like Etienne, Poblah still has to be inked to a contract before he can participate in Wednesday's rookie camp at the University of Manitoba. Negotiations with both those players are expected to close quickly, however, now that Muamba is locked up and the market price is set.
The club is confident both players will be at camp this week.
When the Bombers eventually do sign Poblah, what they hope to see is the same player who caught 154 passes for 1,908 yards and 15 touchdowns in 53 career games with Central Michigan. He has major league speed, the scouts say, and he should pick up the CFL game quickly given his success in the spread offence at CMU.
"I'm a guy who's willing to play for his teammates and do whatever it takes to win," Poblah said from his residence at Mount Pleasant, Mich. "A guy who will catch the ball and head upfield quickly. I'm excited to get up there and start playing."
The Bombers are holding rookie camp from Wednesday to Friday. Veterans report to main camp for physicals Saturday, with full workouts scheduled for Sunday.
LOOSE ends from Monday's CFL supplemental draft:
-- The supplemental draft is for players who were unable to prove their non-import eligibility prior to the regular college draft. WR Kito Poblah, who was born in Montreal but raised in Florida, had to prove he's spent at least 60 months living in Canada. After a four-month process gathering the necessary documentation, he was deemed eligible for non-import status earlier this month.
-- Poblah wasn't the only top prospect available Monday. Ole Miss DL Ted Laurent (6-foot-3, 304-pounds) is also considered a near-lock as a CFL regular. Both players have made it known they have interest in the NFL down the road. The Edmonton Eskimos took Laurent with the second pick in the supplemental draft.
-- The B.C. Lions took DL Alex Ellis with the sixth pick of the draft. The 6-foot-1, 306-pound lineman is a product of Wilfrid Laurier, but he hasn't played since the 2007 season. The fourth player eligible for Monday's supplemental draft, Tabor College LB Stephen Inman, was not selected.