January 22, 2024

New contract ensures that Dabire will be here

So, Charbel Dabire, what is it like to sign a contract to play a game for a living?

“It definitely feels like you’re a grown-up, especially after the first one,” says the 27-year-old Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive tackle, who last week reached a deal with the CFL team for the third time since becoming a professional football player in 2019.

“The first one was the most ‘awe’ moment. You dream about it all through high school and college and then, once the moment actually comes, it’s like, ‘Oh my God! I’m actually going to do this.’

“You never really get used to it. It’s always a blessed feeling to be able to play a sport that you love and do what you’ve been hoping to do for a long time.”

Dabire first signed with the Green and White on May 3, 2019 — shortly after being drafted in the fifth round (44th overall) out of Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y.

His second contract agreement with the Roughriders was announced on Dec. 12, 2022.

Consummation of the latest one-year pact was provided by the Roughriders on Friday. He had been eligible to test free agency on Feb. 13.

“When you sign the contract, it’s like, ‘I’m good now. I’m safe,’ ” says Dabire, who grew up in Toronto. “You don’t have to worry too much about what to do next. In some ways, a contract is a way to say that, OK, you have this kind of safety net.

“But this is professional sports and we know through experience and observation that when you sign the contract, it’s time to prove that you deserve the contract.

“The contract is just there to show people, ‘OK, we’ve got you. We believe in you.’ But when you don’t give them a reason to keep believing in you, that’s when the contract is nullified.

“The contract is just that wake-up call to let you know that you’ve got someone in your corner. At the same time, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a lot of work ahead.”

Understanding the nature of pro football, Dabire knows that change is often part of the equation.

That is especially true of late in Riderville, as the team welcomes a predominantly new coaching staff that is led by Corey Mace.

Sometimes, the installation of a new regime will be followed by sweeping changes. With that in mind, Dabire is especially appreciative of being welcomed back.

“It just gives me confidence to push harder, especially at a time now when we’re reconstructing the team,” he says.

“Bringing me back kind of shows that they want my input and they want me to be a part of that big change and accomplish what we set out to accomplish from the start.”

Dabire is especially excited about the arrival of Mace because the new Head Coach has also played in the CFL as a National defensive tackle.

Mace was a member of the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive line from 2010 to 2015 before moving into coaching.

“After talking to Coach Mace, he put so much motivation and excitement in me to be a part of this team and to want to come back and to want to be part of this transition,” Dabire says.

“I heard his goals and his mindset and it put me in that zone that I’m here to stay. I thought, ‘I’m agreeing with all the things you’re saying and your goals.’

“It’s just a great feeling to get that done. I’m relieved, but I know that the hard work is about to start.”

Dabire feels like he is just getting started as a CFLer but, suddenly, he is moving up the seniority scale.

“It doesn’t feel like five or six years,” he marvels. “I still remember my first training camp in 2019 and looking at people who had been here for four or five years and thinking, ‘I wish I could get to that.’ Now I’m here, but it still feels like I’m a young cat.

“It shows that there’s so much to learn in the CFL and so much to take in. I had the blessing to come in at an early age, at 22, and I’ve been able to take in as much information as I can from all these elders.

“I always feel like I’m learning and growing. That way, I can be young forever.”