Receiver Schoen could shine
Has chance at cracking Blue lineup
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He’s been a standout on offence through the first week of training camp, but the time is now for Dalton Schoen to show the Winnipeg Blue Bombers he’s here to stay.
The 25-year-old Kansas native will get his first taste of a CFL game when the Bombers welcome the Edmonton Elks to IG Field Friday night for the first of two preseason tilts. The other preseason game will be played Tuesday in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium.
Schoen, who is a 6-1, 218-pound receiver out of Kansas State, has been an impressive addition to this year’s roster. He’s made plays in camp and shown a quick ability to adjust to the Canadian game.
But whether he’s capable of cracking the lineup will likely depend on how he’s able to take what he’s learned so far into a game environment. And with only a couple opportunities to make his mark, Schoen understands how important these games are in making a good impression.
“Coaches can evaluate what happens in practice, but the best evaluation is always going to come from a game. That’s when the pressure is highest,” Schoen said following the Bombers walk-through practice Thursday.
“Then there’s the pressure of there are fans in the stands, the game’s on the line, you got to go make a big play. It’s obviously the truest test.”
The task ahead for Schoen isn’t an easy one. The Bombers have a talented crop of receivers, with currently 18 on the roster, several of whom have been with the Bombers beyond this camp.
There are the projected starters in Rasheed Bailey and Canadians Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky, with Winnipeg adding Greg Ellingson, a premier receiver in the league for years, through free agency. Then there are the players who have had limited reps, such as return man Janarian Grant, or have spent a majority of their time on the practice roster, including the likes of Carlton Agudosi and Kelvin McKnight.
But Schoen is no stranger to competition. He was a walk-on in Kansas State and waited two years before earning a starting gig. He then went on to have opportunities in the NFL, including stints with the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Commanders.
“It’s definitely an overwhelming task when you’re coming into a team with a roster of almost 20 receivers. It’s hard to separate yourself, but I don’t think you can get too caught up with that,” he said. “It’s all about knowing your assignment so you can hopefully go out there and play fast and make plays. And then it comes down to building trust with the other receivers, the quarterbacks, the coaches, and everybody.”
But as far as trust goes, Schoen seems to have that from head coach Mike O’Shea.
“What I see is he’s basically right all the time. If I was playing quarterback, I would appreciate that guy being on time and in the right spot,” O’Shea said. “It’s not perfect, and it never is with any guys, even guys that have been with us for a long time. But he seems to be right a lot of the time. He’s a good athlete, too. All those things. All those boxes are checked. That’s what I noticed.”
Schoen has been happy with his camp so far, but he’s been building to something greater. On Friday, he’ll get his chance to show he’s got game, in what will be his first in the CFL.
“I’m here to play football,” he said. “Yeah, training camp is a long grind, they’re long days, long practices. But the reason you’re doing it all is to get to that game. I’m ready to go. I’m hungry for it.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.