By Bret Bloomquist
El Paso Times
Brander Craighead's pro football future is still a year away, but the left tackle's future took a big step toward firming up when he was selected seventh overall Monday in the Canadian Football League draft by the Calgary Stampeders.
Under CFL rules the Stampeders can now redshirt Craighead, who will finish his eligibility for UTEP in the fall. This also protects him from being taken by the new Ottawa franchise in December's expansion draft for the 2014 season, which is where the Belleville, Ont. native assumed he would end up before his selection by Calgary.
"I've watched a bunch of CFL games, I've always been interested in it, and now I'm a Calgary Stampeders fan," Craighead said. "It's very, very, very exciting, I wasn't expecting to go that high. I wasn't expecting to be a Calgary Stampeder at all.
"My parents and I are still freaking out."
CFL teams are required to have 21 "non-import" players, with that term being defined as "A player who was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate of 7 years prior to turning 15 or if he’s a Canadian Citizen, was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of 5 years prior to turning 18."
The Canadian Craighead, who has a tattoo of a maple leaf on his arm, fits that category. the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder may also get an NFL shot a year from now, as he will be a third-year starter at tackle this season for the Miners.
"Right now my goal is to get better over the summer and make the UTEP Miners better," Craighead said. "That's what I'm focused on."
Calgary played for and lost the Grey Cup this past season to the Toronto Argonauts.
“A very good football player,” Stampeder coach/general manager John Hufnagel told the Calgary Herald. "He's excited. At the time we were selecting him, he was in the coach’s office at UTEP waiting by the phone. I'm very pleased we were able to acquire this young man."
He added that not having to sign Craighead until after the expansion draft was a consideration.
"That's one thing I didn’t want to do – select a player in the first round I possibly may lose six months later," he said.
Bret Bloomquist may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6359. Follow him on Twitter @bretbloomquist