It’s been a long journey back to the gridiron for new Riders defensiveback Elie Bouka, one of the highest rated prospects in the 2016 CFL Draft.
Unfortunately, a torn Achilles tendon forced him to miss his entire senior season with the University of Calgary Dinos. But that didn’t stop him from achieving one of his dreams, signing a contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
“From the age of six, I’ve been talking about going to the NFL. People thought I was crazy when I was younger but more and more I just saw that it was a goal that I would attain,” Bouka said.
As he began to work towards his goal to play in the States, it brought forward more question marks when it came to CFL draft day.
The Riders decided to take a gamble on Bouka and, while knowing he may not play, took the Canadian in the third round.
Now, with the Riders set to face the West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders, Bouka will be suiting up for the green and white after being released by the Cardinals due to ankle and hamstring injuries.
“I’m just learning a lot, trying to get up to speed but it’s been great so far, everyone’s been great, the team’s great, facility is awesome so I can’t complain.”
Bouka has only played in one game – a preseason NFL game against the Oakland Raiders – since playing in the East-West Bowl in 2015.
Head coach Chris Jones had praise for the defensive back after two days of practice.
“He’s a tremendous athlete, he can play multiple positions, he’s able to cover, extremely, extremely intelligent young man, he’s got like a photographic memory, I mean he can spit stuff back to you just immediately and he’s going to be a fun one to be around,” Jones said.
Jones said Bouka has been one of the last ones to leave practice throughout the week.
Bouka just wants to help the team out any way that he can.
“As long as I have a ring on my finger, I’m OK, whatever my role is, I’ll take it, it’s a team sport so whatever it takes I’ll do,” Bouka said.
When he was released by the Cardinals, he decided to come back home to Canada to continue his career.
“I needed to play football, I heard a lot about Coach Jones and what this defence does and he sends a lot of guys back and I want to come in and learn a lot from him and learn from the system and be able to dominate and hopefully go back, that’s my goal.”
Bouka is expected to line up at the safety position in the CFL, despite being a cornerback in the NFL.
Jones said he expects Bouka to have a role on the defence and will be a backup on special teams.
“We will keep the learning curve small for him.”
The Riders meet the Stamps at Mosaic Stadium Sunday at 2 p.m.