In an historic 2019 CFL draft, five UBC Thunderbirds were selected Thursday night, led by quarterback Michael O’Connor who was taken by the Toronto Argonauts with the 20th overall pick.
The Orleans, Ontario pivot was the first selection in the third round which also saw two T-Bird defensive linemen go back-to-back with Sheriden Lawley taken 24th overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats followed immediately by Connor Griffiths to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Defensive back Malcom Lee was selected 40th overall by the Calgary Stampeders and former Thunderbird defensive end Charles Nwoye was taken 49th by the BC Lions.
O’Connor, who is set to attend Seattle Seahawks mini-camp this coming weekend, was the only quarterback selected in the draft, and the first Canada West player. Jesse Palmer, who was selected 15th overall in 2001, is the only Canadian quarterback to have been drafted higher. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound O’Connor finished his four year Canada West career with 61 touchdowns and 9,990 yards passing, the second highest total of all-time.
“To finally experience this moment, it’s been a long journey up to this point and it’s just an amazing feeling to have my name called,” said O’Connor following his historic selection. “I’m very grateful and just excited to get to work.”
A native of Abbotsford, B.C., Lawley transferred to UBC for 2018 after playing three seasons with the University of Connecticut Huskies where he had 13 total tackles in his junior year. In four games with the T-Birds, Lawley had three sacks and 12 total tackles. By selecting Lawley, the Ti-Cats have now drafted Thunderbirds in back-to-back seasons after taking Marcus Davis in 2018.
Taken immediately after Lawley by the Bombers, Griffiths is a two-time Canada West All-Star and amassed 8.5 total tackles and a fumble recovery in 2018 despite missing several games due to injury.
A fellow Vanier Cup winner with O’Connor in 2015, Lee was the final selection of the fifth round by the Stampeders. The 6-foot-2, 200 pound DB had 19 solo tackles and an interception in 2018.
Rounding out the T-Bird draftees Thursday was former UBC DE Charles Nwoye. A raw talent who made a big impact in his stint with the ‘Birds played junior football in 2018 with the Langley Rams.
All told, a total of 18 Canada West players were selected while UBC accounted for the first three of those. With four draftees in 2018, UBC head coach Blake Nill has now had a total of 15 players drafted into the CFL during his four year tenure with the program.