DJ Lalama’s football resume is a long and impressive one. His accolades include being named AAA defensive player of the year in his senior year of high school, as well as a provincial team captain and all-star – all with St. Paul’s High School.
In 2013, he was a Football Reporters of Canada Conference All-Star at the specialist position with the Bisons, and last year he was third in the conference with 40 tackles. This season, he was named a team captain for the first time. It’s not hard to tell he’s a leader on this team, and will be critical if the Bisons want to make it back to the Vanier Cup for the first time since 2007.
The Manitoban caught up with DJ right before the herd headed out for Saskatchewan for their first game of the regular season.
Manitoban: What was your experience like, getting a chance to participate in the East-West Bowl during the off-season?
Lalama: First of all, it was an honour to be selected by our coaching staff, to represent Canada West and the Bisons. I think it puts things in a whole new perspective. A lot of people look at Laval being an untouchable, and then you get out there and start playing – two practices a day against these guys, and you start wondering. They’re no different than you. They’ve got the same shoulder pads, same helmet, and the same schemes. You start getting into these one-on-one drills, and you realize, you’re up there.
M: Does your mindset change at all, knowing that this is your draft year, and that scouts will be watching fairly intently?
L: The fact that scouts are there, not so much. There were scouts here last year, there were scouts the year before. We’ve had a number of bona fide players go to the CFL each and every year that I’ve been here. Ultimately, we want to hoist a championship at the end of the year, and be able to say that we did that – to have something to tie this team together forever, because ultimately, this is our brotherhood. We’ve worked extremely hard, and we’re at the point where we think we’re ready.
M: With that being said, does it hit home, knowing that teammates of yours are now playing in the CFL, and that could be you next season?
L: Absolutely, it’s something to look forward to, but to be honest with you, we’ve got to take care of business on the field first. Right now, it’s just one of those things where we’re taking it week by week. We want to finish what we started last year, and have the opportunity for scouts to look at this team and say, “holy smokes, there’s something special here.” The better we do, the rest of that stuff will take care of itself.
M: After week one, you have quite a few home games in a row. How critical do you think that home field advantage will be?
L: I think Investors Group Field is probably one of the hardest places for an opponent to play. For whatever reason, we play well here and teams tend to have a tougher time. To be able to play two top 10 teams in week two, and three at home is huge.