April 27, 2017

Roughriders’ mini-camp will be a tonic for Dillon Guy

Dillon Guy has been waiting a long time for this.

The 25-year-old product of Hamilton is more than ready for the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ upcoming mini-camp in Vero Beach, Fla., where he’ll hit the field for the first time in almost a year.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive lineman missed the 2016 CFL season while recovering from knee surgery.

“(Getting back on the field) is going to be awesome,” Guy says from his home in Lynden, Ont. “Finally I can go out there, be free, do the thing I love and just play football.”

The Roughriders’ mini-camp, which is set for April 25-27, will comprise roughly 40 players. The five quarterbacks currently under contract (Bryan Bennett, Brandon Bridge, Kevin Glenn, G.J. Kinne and Vince Young) are to be joined by rookies and players with pro experience who are heading into their first CFL seasons.

After high school, Guy played one season at a junior college in Quebec and one season with the junior Ottawa Sooners before earning a scholarship from the University of Buffalo.

He spent five seasons at Buffalo, but his 2014 campaign was wiped out as he recovered from foot injuries.

He returned from those issues in 2015 but, in the eighth game of that season, he damaged the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. He underwent surgery in December of 2015.

“It’s part of football; injuries come with it,” Guy says. “You’ve just got to keep grinding every day and make sure you’re in the best physical and mental shape you can be.”

In September of 2015, Guy had been listed at No. 7 in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s first rankings for the 2016 draft. When the second set of rankings was released in December, he was No. 11. By the time the final rankings came out in April, he was No. 14.

On draft day, concerns about his injuries dropped Guy into the fourth round, where the B.C. Lions got him with the 30th overall pick.

Although he went to the Lions’ training camp and played in both of their pre-season games, Guy wasn’t comfortable.

“I was right on the line of being ready (physically) after six months (of rehabilitation), but I always just felt like I wasn’t playing my best,” he recalls.

The Lions decided to put Guy and their 2015 first-round selection, defensive lineman Ese Mrabure, on their practice roster. Both declined, however, which allowed the Roughriders to sign the duo before the regular season.

But Guy ended up spending the entire campaign on the Roughriders’ injured list, so his rookie season was a wash.

“At that point, I was just focused on rehabbing my knee and making sure I was going to be at full strength in the off-season so I could train,” Guy says. “Mentally, I was just trying to learn as much as I could by going to all the meetings and doing everything everyone else was doing.

“I really got lucky having Chris Best work with me in the mornings. Before meetings, we would do 7 a.m., workouts and he would pass on all the knowledge from all of his years of playing with the Riders.”

Best also didn’t play at all in 2016; the veteran guard was dealing with sports hernias that ultimately prompted him to retire this off-season.

The Roughriders’ offensive line went through several different combinations last season, so changes are in the offing in 2017. That means Guy should have a chance to battle for a starting spot — and that opportunity begins at mini-camp.

“I just want to do my best and compete,” he says. “I don’t really know where I stand — I’ll find out what’s going to happen once training camp hits — so right now, I’m just focused on showing them what I can do.”

In a Vancouver Sun story after the 2016 draft, Guy’s personal trainer called the O-lineman “a tough son of a bitch” who’s “driven by football.”

In the same story, Lions player personnel assistant Geroy Simon said of Guy: “I don’t think we have anybody on our team who plays with a chip on his shoulder like this kid.”

Despite that makeup — and despite his long layoff — Guy plans to be under control during the mini-camp instead of giving in to the temptation of trying to do too much.

He’s just excited to play again, and he hopes he can return to the level at which he used to play before the knee injury.

“I’m ready to go,” Guy says. “I’m not worried about the first hit. At this point, I don’t even think about (the knee) because it has been such a long time since it has been this good.”