A great story in the Montreal Gazette on former Gryphon and CFL rookie Alex Charette by Herb Zurkowsky: Rookie receiver Alex Charette developing rapidly for Alouettes
VANCOUVER — A Canadian Football League team never quite knows what it’s acquiring when it selects a player in the draft. The Alouettes have taken guys in the first-round — Dylan Steenbergen, Brody McKnight — who have crashed and burned, and others who never reported or are playing in the NFL.
And there have been late-round picks — starting centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain was the last player selected in 2008, while fullback Jean-Christophe Beaulieu has one touchdown this season — that defied the odds.
When the Als selected Alex Charette last May in the fourth round (36th overall), general manager Jim Popp proclaimed the former University of Guelph star to be the best receiver available in this year’s pool. Of course he did, that’s what GMs are expected to say.
The best? Time will tell. But as CFL teams near the midway mark of the schedule, Charette is proving to be surprisingly productive. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder made the roster out of training camp on special teams — always the window of opportunity for a non-import freshman. But more and more, the native of St. Catharines, Ont., is leaving his mark and displaying potential at his actual position. Frequently, when the Als’ offence is on the field, so is Charette.
The 23-year-0ld said he’s happy with his rookie season, but will never be satisfied. “You can’t expect any more as a rookie. You just come in and contribute any way you can. I’ve been lucky to fall into a position where I can contribute on the field, aside from special teams,” he said this week.
“I run the system well. I study my playbook. I make sure I’m correct on every play. My mental aspect is my best attribute,” added Charette, an environmental-science major who has yet to graduate.
Heading into Thursday night’s late game against the Lions at BC Place, Charette has caught 11 passes for 136 yards, including a 53-yard pass-and-run play last week against Edmonton. He’s the Als’ fourth-leading receiver, outperforming, it could be argued, non-import Samuel Giguère, who signed as a free-agent last winter from Hamilton.
Charette still is seeking his first pro touchdown.
“It’s been impressive to see his development. Right when he got into camp he showed some toughness, a great ability to catch the ball and he threw his body around. He kept on getting up, going out there,” said Anthony Calvillo, in his first year as Montreal’s receivers coach. “He’s a very intelligent young kid and he’s been a huge find for us.
“He’s been consistent,” added the team’s former legendary quarterback. “You don’t see that too often from a young rookie. From camp, from Day 1, he’s been in there making catches left and right. That hasn’t changed. You usually see a rookie go up and down, but he’s been very consistent.”
The Als, it could be suggested, have not possessed such a promising Canadian receiver since Ben Cahoon, and even he was used infrequently as a rookie. Indeed, it wasn’t until Cahoon was moved inside, to slotback, that he began to flourish, becoming the team’s all-time leading receiver — and Calvillo’s favourite target for years.
“He (Charette) is in the early development of his career but, right now, it’s very promising,” Calvillo said.
Charette, who signed a four-year deal with Montreal, led the Gryphons as a senior with 49 receptions for 567 yards. He also scored six touchdowns. He was a second-team OUA all-star and, the previous season, was voted the team’s co-most valuable player.
“The biggest thing for Alex is his hard work and discipline. He was a fairly highly-recruited athlete. The progression we saw every year was unbelievable,” said Todd Galloway, Guelph’s offensive coordinator. “He went from being a backup in Year 1 and 2, when he was a returner, and earned a starting role only in year three. And by Year 4, he was a 50-catch guy.
“He got incredibly better every year.”
Galloway said Charette worked hard at improving his speed. He has great hands and his knowledge of the game is unparalleled. “He knew what the defences were doing before the snap of the ball.
“He’s not the most flashy receiver. Maybe that’s why he went under the radar,” Galloway said. “He was one of our most dominant special-teams players.”
The two spoke almost daily during the Als’ camp. And it was the day after Montreal’s final exhibition game, against Toronto, Charette was advised by André Bolduc, an offensive assistant coach, of the fortuitous moment.
“There always is some uncertainty as a player. I’m always preparing for the worst,” Charette admitted. “My mind went back and forth. I had confidence I was going to make the team, but I was prepared for any result.”
Duane Forde, the TSN broadcaster who follows Canadian university football religiously, said Charette was the smart choice at that stage of the draft, although perhaps not as much of an athletic freak as Nic Demski or Lemar Durant, other highly-regarded receivers.
“But he runs well enough, has a decent frame and catches the ball very well,” Forde said. “He was a very productive player in a good program at Guelph.”