Donny O Signs with Alouettes
WINNIPEG, MB – One of the best best football players to come out of Manitoba in the last decade, Don Oramasionwu, has signed a free agent contract with the Montreal Alouettes.
The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Oramasionwu will join the Alouettes after spending five years with the Edmonton Eskimos. He was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the fifth round (39th overall) in the 2008 CFL Canadian Draft. Montreal is his third CFL team.
Before signing with Montreal, Oramasionwu, 30, had 107 regular season appearances, collecting 104 defensive tackles as well as 18 quarterback sacks in eight seasons with Winnipeg and Edmonton. He also forced four fumbles.
He played in the 103rd Grey Cup game against the Ottawa RedBlacks in front of friends and family in Winnipeg, helping the Eskimos win the CFL championship game. He registered one defensive tackle in that game.
Oramasionwu was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Windsor Park — the youngest of four kids, he has three older sisters. He was always a big kid and his parents were concerned about his expanding body so they wanted him to get moving around. Mom and dad convinced him to give football a try.
“Yeah, I was a chubby kid and my parents wanted to me to be active,” he said, with a smile. “I started in soccer but that didn’t really excite me, so at 13 I signed up to play football with the Greendell Falcons.
“They immediately stuck me on the offensive line, but I didn’t like it, so they moved me to the defensive line and with the exception of my first year at Kelvin, I’ve been there ever since.”
In Grade 10 at Kelvin, the coaches decided that Big Don should play middle linebacker. It was not a good idea. He lasted about one game and was moved back to defensive tackle.
“The jump from minor bantam or bantam football to high school is a bigger jump than people might think and I was lost at middle linebacker so they moved me back to the defensive line and that’s where I’ve played,” he said.
“My first year at the University of Manitoba, I red-shirted and then, in my second year, I started out playing some games at defensive end, but they moved me tackle about the third or fourth game and that’s what I play today.”
At Manitoba, he was an outstanding D-lineman, played on the Vanier Cup-winning team in 2007 and recorded 36 defensive tackles as well as a sack and a fumble recovery during his senior year with the Bisons. He was named Canada-West All-Star and U SPORT All-Canadian.
But he almost didn’t get to the U of M.
“I remember when we were recruiting Don, he had a contract offer at a university in Texas,” said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie. “He wanted to go but his parents wanted no part of that. I remember getting a call from Don’s dad and a few days later, Don signed with us.”
Amazingly, Oramasionwu’s greatest moment as a football player was not winning the Vanier Cup. Instead, it was a moment with Coach Richard Harris.
“It was the first game of my Bomber career and we were in Toronto,” Oramasionwu explained. “He said, ‘Listen Don, Doug (Brown) isn’t feeling very well and he might not be able to play. So be ready. Doug might be able to go, but right now, I doubt it, so make sure you’re ready to start.’
“I was pretty fired up at game time, started at nose tackle and had a sack in the first half. People on the club were really happy with the way I played and Coach Harris was right there from the start. That was probably my greatest moment in football.”
Oramasionwu started out playing minor football with Greendell (where Geoff Gray, the Bisons offensive lineman, who will get an NFL workout in March, started his career), went on to play high school football at Kelvin, played university football with the Bisons and graduated to the Canadian Football League. He is living proof that you can start playing minor football in Manitoba and live your dream as a professional.
“While Coach Harris was my biggest influence as a professional, Mike Watson was my biggest influence as a young player,” Oramasionwu said. “Before he became the most successful coach in the history of the Rifles, Coach Watson was my coach at the U of M. I’d gone straight from high school to the Bisons and he was the guy who gave me the chance to start. The way he taught skills and fundamentals was great for me. He taught me how to be a football player.”
Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo by Jeff Miller and Jason Halstead