May 18, 2022

Huskies RB Alex Gayle Chasing CFL Dream with Elks

Alex Gayle remembers it well.

He was in Kindergarten or Grade 1 when the hulking lineman with the grizzly beard talked to his class at Sherwood elementary school in west Edmonton.

Gayle, all of 5 or 6 years old, asked the friendly giant in the Green and Gold gear, how do you become a football player?

“He explained the Draft, and was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to be the best on your team here, and you’ve got to go to this event, and then you’ve got to be the best there, and they select a certain amount of people, and then you’ve got to go the team,’” Gayle recalls.

“I remember just being so confused, and I was like, man, that sounds like such a process, I don’t know how that’s possible.”

Turns out it is possible for the now-22-year-old running back, who was signed by the Edmonton Elks to join their rookie camp last week, and earned an invite to main camp, which opened Sunday at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a professional athlete, but I’d say since the age of 10 I’ve wanted to be a professional football player,” says Gayle.

Since graduating from Jasper Place High School, Gayle’s has played at the junior level with the Edmonton Huskies of the Prairie Football Conference. In 2021 he was named a PFC All-Star and Most Outstanding Running Back after leading the conference with 927 rushing yards (6.2 average per carry), while scoring 12 majors in eight games.

Gayle took part in the CFL Western Regional Combine in March and had some of the better scores in the 40 (4.81), vertical (34”), broad (10’1.5”) and shuttle (4.33). The six-foot-one speedster wasn’t selected in the CFL Draft on May 3 but didn’t let that discourage him.

“I just kept my head down, kept on working in the gym, kept in shape,” he says. “If I get that opportunity, I’m going to be ready for that opportunity. that’s the big thing that was going through my mind.”

Opportunity came calling before long. Gayle was at the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre, getting in an early morning workout last week when his cellphone rang. It was Elks assistant general manager Geroy Simon, offering a spot in rookie camp.

Gayle needed only a couple minutes to get from the fitness centre to the Elks’ offices where he signed his first pro contract. A couple days later he was on the field with the rookies. And now he’s in main camp, getting reps with the likes of James Wilder Jr., the No. 3 rusher and fifth in yards from scrimmage in the CFL last season.

Seems like just yesterday that inquisitive kid was chatting up his classroom’s special visitor.

“I remember it so vividly, too,” Gayle says of that fateful moment. While he made not have grasped the rules of the draft or the concept of free agency, he knew how to dream, and that can become reality.

“To me, it like, ok, you have to get really lucky – you have to stay healthy, you have to have the right team, the right coaches, they have to put you in the right position – but then at the end of the day it’s also that you got to be a football player and you got to be an athlete and you got to do what you can.”