Dublanko awaits CFL draft

EDMONTON - You can’t win a race without shifting gears.

But two years ago, North Dakota Fighting Sioux linebacker Curtis Dublanko felt like he was going in reverse.

His coaches had moved him clear across the line of scrimmage to fullback for a season, where he got his fill of blocking against his usual position.

“They moved me to offence, I was playing fullback,” said the Leduc Composite high-school product, who grew up on a farm near Thorsby. “I got in on goal-line situations and played a little bit, but I didn’t rack up any stats playing fullback when I was only blocking.”

But the switch did nothing to block his shot at playing professionally, helping guide his college career toward Sunday’s CFL Draft.

Placed back in his linebacker role last season, Dublanko was ranked among the top-five draft-eligible players at the position by TSN analyst and Canadian talent scout Duane Forde in December. Dublanko led his team with 47 solo tackles in 11 games last season to help the Fighitng Sioux reach the Great West Conference championship.

“I’ve been following it and seeing where people think I might go,” the six-foot, 235-pounder said of the draft, which airs on TSN at 10 a.m. Sunday. “I’m hoping I get up somewhere in the early round, but somewhere in the second or third round is where I think I might go.

“Playing in the CFL was a dream growing up and watching the Eskimos and just being a fan of them my whole life.”

Dublanko was contacted by the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders, who flew down to see him in action last season. Every other CFL squad called the university team about getting film on the linebacker.

Initially noticed by Fighting Sioux inside-linebackers coach Josh Kotelnicki while attending an All-Pro camp in Edmonton as a high-school player in 2004 and ’05, Dublanko jumped at the opportunity to play south of the border.

“A lot of schools from Canada were recruiting me and a few from down here in the States,” he said. “Definitely, the goal was I wanted to play college football in the States, preferably Division 1. That had always been a dream ever since I started playing.”

But he had to make some big sacrifices in order to join the Division 1-AA team, which he wouldn’t have had to endure if he remained in Canada — beginning with red-shirting his freshman year.

“I red-shirted and the next year it was just a lot of special teams,” Dublanko said.

Then came the switch to fullback in 2008.

“I got pretty sick of fullback at the end. I didn’t mind it, but it wasn’t my natural position,” he said. “Honestly, it really helped going and playing that one year of offence because it helped me learn how an American college offence worked. I really had no idea before.

“Going back on defence, I understand everything the offence is trying to do and I can help stop that.”

But there’s no stopping the excitement the feels as the draft nears.

“I’m just trying to keep an even keel,” Dublanko said. “I’m sure as the weekend goes on I’ll be getting more excited.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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