The University of Regina Rams defence took a heavy hit this past Monday, as 2016 Canada West Rookie of the Year and 2017 Canada West All-Star Nicholas Dheilly officially de-committed from the program.
Dheilly — whose 10.5 career sacks rank fourth all-time in program history — says the decision came down to a variety of factors, including wanting to be on a “Vanier-caliber” team for his draft year in 2019.
The defensive end will suit up for the historically strong Okanagan Sun of the Canadian Junior Football League this season, as due to transfer rules, he needs to sit out a full year before moving on to a new U SPORTS school for his draft year.
“After next year, [the Rams] lose a lot of guys and we’re going into my draft year, so I wouldn’t mind being at a really good place and team going forward for my draft year,” he said.
“[Deciding to de-commit] took me a while. It wasn’t a quick decision. It took me a few months to really decide what I wanted to do.”
Rams head coach Steve Bryce was fully supportive of Dheilly’s decision, saying the move was best for his “health and wellbeing.”
“I think this move is probably the best for him, personally. And I think it’s a healthy decision for him to make,” Bryce said. “I think he’s probably in a better place for himself, and he can focus on the things he needs to do to make the next steps in his career that he wants to make.”
Dheilly, a product of local powerhouse Dr. Martin LeBoldus, was recruited by schools across Canada coming out of high school, including Guelph and Simon Fraser, before ultimately deciding on Regina for the 2016 season. While he hasn’t made his intentions clear about which program he’ll be suiting up for in 2019, there’s sure to be a significant amount of interest in the six-foot-four, 220 pounder.
In the meantime, he’ll be able to make an immediate impact with the Sun. Okanagan head coach Ben Macauley originally began talking with the defensive end in March, after Bryce made it known to him that Dheilly may not be returning to the team.
“Steve [Bryce] clearly wants what’s best for his players, and he made it clear that he thinks [Dheilly] deserves an opportunity to play somewhere, and if we were going to go after anyone, he’d be worth going after,” Macauley said.
“We run a defence that’s sort of conducive to allowing the ends some opportunity to be the guy, to make the plays and to come off the edge. We’ve got some great guys coming in to provide pressure up the middle, which will allow Nick to really get one-on-one with tackles, and [the opposition] is going to have to help on the edge. They’re going to have to game-plan around him.”