WINNIPEG - It would not be surprising one bit if Giovanni Aprile turned out to be in the witness protection program. The man cannot keep his identity straight.
In college he was a receiver and kick returner for the Queen’s Golden Gaels. He was known as Johnny April, as in the month.
On Wednesday, during the first day of Bombers rookie camp, he was a safety. And he told the media afterwards he wants to be known as Giovanni Aprile (pronounced: uh-PREE-ay), to honour his Italian heritage. (There’s no word if Jackie Aprile Jr. is his cousin, for all you Sopranos fans out there).
“My whole life it’s been different,” the third-round draft choice said of his surname. “It’s however someone interprets it. Then they ask me how it is, and I give them that: Aprilé. I usually say April because it’s easier for everyone. Maybe my ancestors might not be too happy.”
So Aprile is not only changing his name and going from college to pro, but he’s switching positions as well.
“It is insane,” he said. “It’s definitely insane, but I’m willing to do it, and I hope it all works out.”
The Bombers informed Aprile after the evaluation camp in March that they might move him to safety if they drafted him, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to him. After the Bombers took him 16th overall earlier this month, Aprile asked every defensive back he knew for tips.
It didn’t make Day 1 of Bomber rookie camp any easier. He said his biggest “wow” moment was “how hard the DBs have it. I’m always used to going against them, so being in their position I really learned how much they gotta be on pace and on track with what’s going on.”
Essentially, the Bombers see Aprile as their eventual starting safety, but that will be well down the road. Right now, they want him to play on every special team and throw his weight around.
“He’s athletic, he’s fast, and he’s got range. And he’s physical,” head coach Paul LaPolice said. “We think he can do some of the things that some of the guys we’ve had playing linebacker did on special teams. We thought he could be a long-term solution at safety and a dominating player.”
The last Bomber to go from one side of the field to the other was Chris Greaves, who was a defensive lineman at Western but goes into this, his his third season, as Winnipeg’s starting left guard. LaPolice said Aprile can look to former Chicago Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah, whom LaPolice coached at New Hampshire, for motivation.
“He was the Division I-AA player of the year (at running back),” LaPolice said. “The Bears drafted him in the fifth round and said, ‘You’re gonna play DB tomorrow.’ He made the team and was an All-Pro. So you want to take talented guys and smart guys, and coach them up.”