Huskies’ Wiebe happy to be a Rider

Nick Wiebe, shown tackling Alberta's Chevy Thomas, has been drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. PHOTO BY MICHELLE BERG /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Kevin Mitchell

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Nick Wiebe woke up on Wednesday morning feeling different than the Nick Wiebe who woke up Tuesday morning.

Getting drafted by a pro football team will do that to a guy.

“There’s no better feeling than waking up a Rider, I’ll tell you that much,” said Wiebe, a University of Saskatchewan Huskies linebacker who was selected by the Saskatchewan Roughriders Tuesday in the second round (12th overall) of the CFL’s Canadian college draft.

Wiebe’s selection came despite a torn ACL, suffered during the Huskies’ conference semifinal playoff game in November. He continues to rehab, says he’s ahead of schedule, and hopes to be back on the field in August or September.

“With the knee, you don’t really know where you’re going to end up or what pick you’re going to go at, no matter how talented you might think you are,” said Wiebe, who attended the Huskies’ fundraising Dogs’ Breakfast on Thursday.

“The knee could turn off a lot of teams, and that is what it is. So sitting there, waiting to get picked, is obviously stressful. It was nerve-wracking, The Riders didn’t call me before they picked me — they picked me, and then called me after. It was a heck of an experience, to look up and see my name on the TV screen.”

Wiebe, from Okotoks, took a continent-wide route to Tuesday’s selection by the Roughriders. He spent two high-school seasons at IMG Academy in Florida, and then walked on at the University of Oregon, without a scholarship, in 2018.

Soon, he had his scholarship, and played a handful of games — the last at the 2020 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona against Iowa State, where he collected six tackles.

He remained restless and left Oregon for Saskatchewan during the off-season. That brought him closer to home, and he’s since established himself as one of Canada’s best university defenders while playing in two Vanier Cups.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Wiebe notched 52 solo tackles and 27 assists in eight games this season, his third wth the program.

Wiebe couldn’t show his wares at the CFL combine because of the injury, but he did attend and talked to each of the nine teams.

“It’s awesome to have that vote of confidence from (the Roughriders). I appreciate it,” he said. “It shows you what kind of organization they are, to do their research and their homework. Not seeing me at the combine might have turned a lot of teams off me, and I’m super understanding of that. But it’s a testament to the organization the Riders are that they dug a little deeper and found a guy they might like.”

Wiebe said the ACL tear led to the first surgery of his life, and he’s pleased with his progress. Unfortunately for him, he won’t be able to run, jump and display his talents when the Roughriders open training camp. Wiebe is eligible to return to the Huskies for another season, but his preference — naturally — is to stick with the Roughriders.

“Coming in and competing is Goal No. 1, once I get this knee healthy, and making a name for myself in the organization,” he said. “Following the plan they have for me is my biggest priority coming in for my rookie year. They have a plan for me, and I’ll follow that plan and do whatever they need me to do, whether it be special teams, on defence, whatever they need me to do.

“I trust the coaching staff there. I know what kind of organization the Saskatchewan Roughriders are, I know what kind of plan they have for me, and I trust it wholeheartedly.”

Wiebe’s father bought a Roughriders jersey a while back, and the player pulled it on after his name flashed on the screen this week — his own personal donning of the team colours. His allegiance now extends from Saskatoon and down Highway 11 to Regina, and he’s happy that it’s happened that way.

“Why would you want to (leave?)” he said. “The best fan base in football. Why the hell would you want to get out of Saskatchewan?”

The Huskies held their first spring-camp session Thursday night, followed by workouts Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. They’ll wrap up the weekend with the Green and White game at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Meanwhile, their 2024 schedule was announced Thursday. They’ll open Aug. 31 in Manitoba, play in Regina on Sept. 6, and then host the Calgary Dinos in their home opener on Sept. 13.