May 29, 2023

CFL game appeals to Roughriders’ Kolby Harvell-Peel 

As the Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the BC Lions in CFL preseason action in Regina, SK, May 27, 2023. Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

Some 511 days after the ball dropped to kick off 2022, Kolby Harvell-Peel dropped a ball-carrier for a loss. 

It was a long time coming for the 23-year-old linebacker, who made his CFL pre-season debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday against the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium. 

Until this past weekend, Harvell-Peel had not played a game of football since New Year’s Day, 2022, when he sparkled for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Harvell-Peel registered four solo tackles, four assisted tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup as Oklahoma State edged the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 37-35 in Glendale, Ariz. 

He recovered another fumble on Saturday, when he also registered two defensive tackles — one for a loss — to help the Roughriders win 30-27. 

“It had been a minute since I’d played,” Harvell-Peel said, by way of understatement, after Monday’s Coors Light Riders Training Camp workout at Griffiths Stadium. 

“It took a little second to get my feet wet but, once I did and once I got acquainted, I felt great. It felt like I hadn’t missed a beat.” 

The coaching staff shared that assessment. 

“I think he’s very sudden and he’s a very smooth athlete,” Linebackers Coach Deion Melvin said. “I think he’s got a shot to help the team. I like what he’s doing. 

“The thing that we’ve just got to do with him is get him in more of a tackle mode. We haven’t had a bunch of contact (in training camp). But everything looks good from he’s doing with respect to what we want to get done on defence.” 

That has been the case from Day 1 of rookie camp. 

“He has been probably the most productive linebacker in camp, so I’m really happy for him,” Melvin noted. “He’s doing a good job. 

“He’s a sponge. He’s trying to get better every day, so I love that in his work.” 

Harvell-Peel impressed the Roughriders’ talent evaluators at an open tryout camp on April 16 in Dallas. The team announced his signing just four days later. 

The media release heralded a 6-foot-0, 220-pounder who made the All-Big 12 team as a safety in 2019 and 2021. As well, he was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2020. 

Additionally, he was named a third-team All-American by The Associated Press after leading Oklahoma State in interceptions, with three, in 2021. 

He signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in late April of 2022, only to suffer a hamstring injury at the NFL team’s rookie mini-camp. He was later waived with an injury designation. 

Nearly a year later, Harvell-Peel is delighted to be back on the field and to have an opportunity to master the intricacies of the three-down game. 

“I didn’t know anything,” he said with a laugh. “My first time getting acquainted was at the team meeting, breaking down all the new rules and the field dimensions and everything like that. 

“But I feel like I’m picking it up pretty quickly. So far, I feel good.” 

He also feels quite at home, despite playing a different game in a new country. 

“I like it,” Harvell-Peel said. “It’s a fast pace. It reminds me a little bit of college, with the 20-second play clock. 

“The biggest difference is the size of the field. It changes all your drops and your angles of pursuit, but so far I’m having fun.” 

It looks that way, judging by the enthusiastic, energetic manner in which Harvell-Peel carries himself on the field. 

“It was fun (on Saturday) with all the smoke in the tunnel,” he said. “Mosaic Stadium is ridiculous — it’s super-nice — and we actually had a nice number of fans for the pre-season game.” 

Now the focus is on the next pre-season game — Friday in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers — and building on what has been accomplished in recent weeks. 

“I’m just trying to be right in the details,” Harvell-Peel said. “I made some good plays (on Saturday), but I have to clean up some small stuff that the fans might not see.” 

All of that while dealing with a big transition — from playing safety in four-down football to being a linebacker in the three-down game. 

“Some of the linebacker stuff is new to me, so the faster I pick it up and the more I understand it, the faster I’ll be able to play,” Harvell-Peel said. 

“It’s healthy competition, but I’ve grown to know these guys over the past two or three weeks and I really enjoy being around them.”