Offensive lineman Samuel Thomassin’s road to the Montreal Alouettes has been filled with twists and turns. He had an incredibly successful college career with the University of Laval Rouge et Or football program, he attended New York Giants rookie mini-camp and he already has one CFL training camp under his belt.
But by his own admission, 2019 was a “crazy” year for the 24-year-old. Not only did his Rouge et Or team not make it to the Vanier Cup, he also had to deal with a doping scandal (he’s been cleared of any wrongdoing).
Now, the two-time Vanier Cup Champion will head to training camp looking to lock down a spot along the Als’ offensive line.
I spoke to him on Saturday morning and here’s how it went:
Joey Alfieri: How has the covid-19 situation affected you this off-season?
Samuel Thomassin: It’s a strange situation right now. The gyms are closed and everything. With my personal trainer in Gatineau, I’ve been able to manage a good home gym with some stuff they gave for however long this lasts. I can say that I can work out pretty good at home right now and I’m doing my runs in the street and on the stairs. I’m trying to find new ways to train. It’s going pretty well.
JA: 2019 was a bit of a crazy for you with the CFL Draft, the doping situation, you didn’t make the Vanier Cup, but you went to a New York Giants mini-camp. How would you summarize 2019?
ST: Crazy year (laughs). It was, I would say, a rough year, you know, especially with the doping situation. It slowed down everything from the combine to my pro day and mentally I wasn’t in a great mood with all that. So, I came into camp not in the best shape mentally and physically, too, because I was affected by this. It’s not often I give myself some compliments, but I think I did a great job with all the situation I had to deal with. I’ve been lucky to have great friends, too, with the guys I was training for the combine with like Mathieu Betts (drafted by Edmonton), Vincent Desjardins (drafted by Calgary) and all those guys.
But 2019 was a crazy year. I really wanted to make it to the next level (CFL) and that didn’t happen. The situation was a bit weird too with the Alouettes with the coach (Mike Sherman) being fired right after I left and the GM (Kavis Reed) too. Everything was out of place.
I went back to Laval. I had a great year. I had a lot of fun with the guys too back there. I had an opportunity to work on a lot of things to get more ready to come back this year getting ready for the CFL. Obviously, we didn’t win the Vanier Cup, but I took a big role in leadership. It was a role I had before, but it become a priority for me because we had a young team. That’s something I took care of with a couple of guys on the team and I really took pride in this role.
So yeah, it was a crazy year (laughs).
JA: I don’t want to harp on the doping scandal too much, but what happened there? And how relieved were you when you were cleared of any wrongdoing?
ST: (Being cleared) was seriously one of the best feelings I ever had. The day I learned I tested positive was the day right after we won the Vanier Cup (2018). I got a call from my head coach. My world just fell apart.
I was with my girlfriend, I remember. We partied the night before because, obviously, we had just won the Vanier Cup. And I get this call and I couldn’t understand how it happened. It was a very long process with a lot of people involved. I was lucky to have all the help I had. It was so stressful.
Obviously, at first, we didn’t where this came from. And then as you saw in our statement, it was a medical error. It was a lot of stress. I had some good days and bad days. When I found out I had been cleared, it was one of the best days of my life because the months before were awful.
JA: If I understand correctly, someone gave you the wrong injection.
ST: So, before the Quebec semi-final, before the Dunsmore Cup, I had a small injury and I got injected with Toradol, which is totally legal. I had been injected with that before. I thought it was Toradol, we all did. But I got injected with the wrong product. This product was kept for tennis players because there was a tennis cup at Laval. This product was held for the women tennis players there and I got injected with the wrong product. The product looks exactly the same as Toradol. During the rush of halftime, the doctor mixed up the products and injected me with the wrong thing. So that’s how it went.
But it took a long time to find this out. Thank God our doctor realized that he may have made a mistake. It takes a lot of courage to confirm that you made a mistake and I’ll be thankful for the rest of my life for that. He’s a great man. Everybody makes mistakes, but when you’re a doctor the mistakes may be bigger. He’s been with me throughout all of this. I’m really thankful for him. Like I said, it takes a lot of courage. I could’ve faced bigger problems if it wasn’t for him, even if it was his mistake.
JA: How much did the Alouettes talk to you before the draft (the Als drafted him with their territorial pick at the end of the second round)? Were you hoping to stay in Quebec?
The draft process was a bit of a mess for me. We didn’t have a lot of talks together. The situation was a bit on and off. My interview was with Mickey Donovan and a couple of other Als employees. I didn’t meet the front office people like the GM or head coach or anybody like that.
During the CFL Draft, I was at Giants Stadium in my hotel room with Drew Desjarlais (drafted by Winnipeg). It was kind of weird following this from New York. But I was really happy to be drafted by the Montreal Alouettes. It’s the team I’ve been following since I was a kid. It’s Quebec’s team. I’m really happy. Especially with the changes there’s been now. Khari Jones looks like a great head coach. He was a really nice offensive coordinator when I was there during training camp last year. He came to see some practices and games at Laval with Andre Bolduc, so that was really nice. I think he’s the perfect person to lead this team.
JA: Do you think you got a fair opportunity to make the team last year? Do you think they knew before camp started that they’d send you back to school for your fifth year?
ST: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not gonna say that they had already made up their mind. Like I said, it was a situation that was managed by someone else. Kavis Reed was the general manager when I was there. I know I did my best and worked hard every day. That’s what I’m going to do at the next camp whenever it will be. That’s all I can control anyway.
JA: When you saw that they had fired Sherman six days before the start of the 2019 season, how surprised were you?
ST: I wasn’t surprised, honestly. There was a strange vibe on the team between this coach and the players. That wasn’t a surprise to me. It was talked about a lot when I was there. I wasn’t surprised to see that happen a couple of days after I was sent back to school.
JA: How surprised were you that a team that made so many changes in a short amount of time had that much success during the regular season?
ST: I wasn’t surprised because I had some friends on the team like Etienne Moisan, Hugo Richard and other ex-Laval players like Chris Normand, Boris Bede and I had a great connection with Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, who is now coaching. He helped me a lot during camp. Kristian Matte, too. It wasn’t a question of talent or effort. I wasn’t surprised to see it happen.
JA: Do you have any good stories from Giants mini-camp that you can share?
ST: I would say that it’s crazy to see how the Americans look at the Canadians. They think that we’re from another planet. They know nothing about Canada. Some guy asked me if we have Game of Thrones. I was like: “are you serious?”.
From a football standpoint, it was a great experience being around people you watch on TV. I follow the NFL a lot. I was around former first-round picks Dexter Lawrence and Daniel Jones. It was really nice. I did pretty well. I showed improvement every day. It’s rookie mini-camp, too, right. So they need bodies for their camp. It’s a shot, but you’re really there to help the other rookies show themselves. We didn’t have a lot of reps, but I think we improved a lot. It was nice to get to know Drew, too.
JA: Where are you most comfortable on the offensive line?
ST: Obviously, I spent all my years at Laval as a right guard. I would be open to playing anywhere. I’m training to be able to play anywhere. I’m practicing my snaps, too. I think it’s important, especially in the CFL, to be able to as many positions as possible. So, that’s what I’m trying to do. Maybe they’ll try me as a tackle, but I’m more comfortable as a guard because that’s the only place I played at the university level.
JA: So, was the negotiation with the Als more difficult this winter now that they have a general manager who’s a University of Montreal alum (laughs)?
ST: Actually, I signed my contract before (Danny Maciocia) was hired for the position. I didn’t negotiate with him. I’ll see how this goes (laughs). Danny recruited me too, so I hope we can have a good relationship. I’m not someone that has bad relationship normally. I’m a really sociable guy.
It’s just going to be strange going from competing against him to him being my boss (laughs).
JA: He recruited you. Did you have to call him to tell him you were picking the Laval over the University of Montreal?
ST: That’s something I did that I kind of regret. I never had the chance to talk to him about it. You know, you’re kind of young and it’s one of your first big choices in life to chose your university football team. My choice was between Laval, Carleton and Montreal. I just sent him a text message (to inform him of my decision) and I really regret that. I should have just called him. But I was overwhelmed with texts and stuff. That’s something I regret. I told him I was going to Laval and he understood it. That’s where our relationship ended. It’s recruitment too and I know he has to move on to the next one. That’s just part of recruitment.
JA: Yeah, I think you made the right call (laughs). You did okay for yourself at Laval.
ST: Yeah, I don’t regret my choice at all (laughs). Don’t worry about that!
(Feature Image Credit: Dominick Gravel – Montreal Alouettes)