What the Hallett were they thinking?

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Noah Hallett soaked up the atmosphere at last November’s Grey Cup game in Calgary, watching his brother Nick and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers slurp bubbly from the hallowed mug.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/05/2020 (832 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Noah Hallett soaked up the atmosphere at last November’s Grey Cup game in Calgary, watching his brother Nick and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers slurp bubbly from the hallowed mug.

Should the conditions of the pandemic crisis recede and allow for an eventual start to the season, Noah will be more than a spectator. He’ll be a teammate and potential competition for Nick after the Blue Bombers made him their 18th-overall pick in the CFL Draft Thursday night.

Noah, a 22-year-old from London, Ont., is three years younger than his brother. Both are defensive backs.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters.

Although they have never been teammates and have only faced each other once in university, Noah has long hoped for a chance to play with Nick, who had a stellar rookie season as a special-teamer in 2019 after arriving as an unheralded seventh-round draft pick out of the University of Toronto.

“We were always playing games with each other and we’d get pretty competitive, pretty aggressive, so I think we’re used to it,” said Noah in a conference call with reporters Friday morning. “We found a way and we know it’s all in good competition in whatever you’re doing. You’re pushing each other to do better.”

Noah, a three-year veteran of the McMaster Marauders, was touted to go earlier in the draft but the Bombers were happy to snatch him with their first choice. Depth on defence and finding a player who could grow into a starting safety was a priority.

“He was right up at the top of the board in regards to players we think can come in and grow into a free safety role,” said Bombers general manager Kyle Walters. “It’s kind of a neat story that Nick’s on the team and had such a good first year last year. It didn’t have any bearing on how we graded him and why we picked him.”

The Hallett brothers could also be chasing the same job.

“I think you could see a Hallett brothers competition in training camp,” said Walters. “It’s twofold… You want to give your team options ratio-wise that if you suffer some injuries, where would your eighth Canadian (starter) be, whether it’s a third receiver, a fourth O-lineman, whether it’s a free safety.

“These are all things we wanted to talk about and the way it went last year with all Americans in the secondary, we didn’t dress a designated import back there. So your Canadian on the roster has to be a get-you-out-of-a-game safety, for lack of a better term. We just wanted some competition at that role.”

Noah and Nick Hallett and second-year man Kerfalla Exume could all be considered contenders for that role.

Noah Hallett, who played weakside halfback for most of his time at McMaster, believes he’s up to the challenge of making the move to safety.

“The biggest transition to the CFL for a Canadian player is to become a free safety,” said Noah. “(But) I think I’m a pretty versatile player. I think I can make an impact on special teams right away… and really anywhere on defence that the team needs me.”

At McMaster, Noah was one of head coach Stefan Ptaszek’s go-to stars.

“He just assimilates whatever you put in front of him,” said Ptaszek. “He’s going to learn and own it. For us, weak-side halfback was one of the hardest positions for the way we want to call a football game and so he played weak-side half just because you needed your best athlete for how coach (Scott) Brady and coach (Greg) Knox wanted to call those secondaries.

“You could put him at free (safety), you could put him at field half, you could put him at field corner and there will be a learning curve but he’s as focused and driven a young man as we had in the program.”

Winnipeg’s brain trust came away enamoured with Noah’s intense, game-busting style.

“I like hitting a lot, so I feel like I’m a pretty physical player coming down into the box,” said Hallett. “Really, I’m a guy who’s going to do whatever the team needs and what the team wants. I’ve always been really dedicated to football as a whole and the process of watching film.”

There’s risk associated with that approach.

“He plays downhill and when he makes a decision, he’s going to make it full speed and if it’s not the right one, so be it…” said Ptaszek. “Most defensive co-ordinators love that. If he makes a few mistakes, I guarantee he’ll learn from it.”

NOTEWORTHY: on Friday, Winnipeg signed a pair of free agents bypassed in Thursday’s CFL Draft. University of Manitoba Bisons wide receiver Macho Bockru, touted as a mid- to late-round pick, and Wilfrid Laurier defensive tackle Zach Houghton agreed to contracts.

 

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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Updated on Friday, May 1, 2020 9:04 PM CDT: Adds photo

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