Carlton’s Umukunzi commits to VI Raider Junior Football Program

Photo from Carlton Comprehensive High School Facebook Page. Carlton’s Jordan Umukunzi will compete for the Vancouver Island Raiders next season.

It’s a long journey from Prince Albert to Nanaimo, but Carlton’s Jordan Umukunzi is ready for the opportunity the next level of football will provide for him.

Umukunzi will compete next fall for the Vancouver Island (VI) Raiders in the Canadian Junior Football League. The Raiders are based in Nanaimo, B.C. and have recently announced that former CFL running back and four-time Grey Cup winner Andrew Harris will be taking over as head coach next season.

Umukunzi says the addition of Harris as head coach and attending spring camp convinced him to commit to playing for the VI Raider program.

“At first, I was kind of iffy. I saw their record last year, but then I also saw that they did hire a new head coach and so that kind of intrigued me. I went out there and I kind of got to see the area and it’s a beautiful place. It was a really good time. The spring camp was really good. So that’s kind of what drew me in.”

Umukunzi was a multi-sport athlete during his time at Carlton, also competing for the Sr. Boys Basketball team who finished fourth at Hoopla 2023 in Prince Albert back in March.

He says he picked up some skills on the court that also translated to the gridiron.

“My whole life I’ve always been preached to be a multi-sport athlete as a kid. Every sport that you play helps you with a different sport. Playing basketball, you have to be deceptive and it’s the same thing when you’re running around. It definitely helped a lot.”

Despite his talents on the gridiron, Umukunzi is still relatively new to the sport of football. He first started playing high school football in his Grade 11 year at Carlton.

Crusader head coach Lindsay Strachan says Umukunzi transitioned very well to the sport after joining the Carlton football team.

“It really speaks to the athleticism that he possesses. When he first came out in grade 11, it was very natural for him. It came quite easy to fit in right away at that receiver position. And I’ll be honest, when he started out, it like it did not look like his first day on the field.”

Although Umukunzi is a very gifted athlete, Strachan says the most improvement he saw was in his football IQ.

“Physically he’s quite gifted, he’s got good hands, he’s got good feet, especially for a taller guy. I think where he improved the most is in his understanding of the game and understanding of his role within the offense. That sort of stuff just comes with practice and game reps and spending a lot of time on the field. Athletically, he fell into it, but his football sense was what developed the most over his two years with us.”

Umukunzi says he is looking forward to meeting a lot of new people in Nanaimo when he joins the Raiders.

“It expands your network a lot. You meet a lot of new people. I know with the coach that I have, being a (former) CFL player, that’ll definitely give me a lot of connections that way. You got to gain independence going away somehow.”