Theren Churchill is set to make his CFL debut in one of the longest-standing rivalries in Canadian sports.
The 26-year-old Stettler product found out Wednesday that he would suit up for the Toronto Argonauts in Friday’s contest against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Churchill, a rookie offensive lineman who has drafted ninth overall by the Argos in 2019, can’t wait to make his professional debut.
“It’ll be fun, been waiting for this moment for a while. It’s been a lot of years working for it,” he said.
He’ll get his career started in style, playing in what’s known as the QEW rivalry – with Toronto and Hamilton separated by about a 45-minute drive, along with a rich history of playing against each other that spans nearly 50 years.
“It’s an interesting rivalry,” said Churchill, whose Argos lost to the Tiger-Cats 32-19 in the Labour Day Classic on Monday.
Churchill’s path to the CFL was not the most direct route and he wasn’t always sure it would happen.
After growing up in Stettler playing minor football and at the high school level for William E. Hay, he travelled up the road to Edmonton. There, he played four seasons for the Huskies in the Canadian Junior Football League, before taking the next step.
His effort in Edmonton led to an opportunity at the University of Regina, where he played four seasons with the Rams. He started all 25 games over two seasons in Regina.
That was also where he played his last competitive football game in October of 2019.
He was drafted in April of 2020 by the Argonauts, but without football, came home for the first time in a long time.
In the absence of football, Churchill turned to coaching at his former high school and also got in some much-needed family time.
“Once I knew there wasn’t going to be a 2020 season, I did take some time off in the later part of the summer, just to spend some time with family. That was the longest time I had been home since I graduated high school, in those eight years,” he said.
Refreshed and re-energized, the six-foot-six, 295-pound CFL rookie made the move to Toronto for his first CFL camp. The team spent about a month training at the University of Guelph, more moving to the big city. Safe to say, it has all been a big adjustment.
“It was a bit challenging at first. A month away from the city, once I did move here – we did our camp in Guelph… it was a pretty smooth transition, being around the guys and getting comfortable and getting situated that way,” he said.
“That made the move into Toronto a lot more smooth. There were a couple weeks where you had to situate yourself and get used to the city, finding your way around. I got on my feet pretty quickly.”
Much like his journey to this moment, it took a while for Churchill to find his footing and figure it all out. On Friday, he’ll lace up his cleats on a CFL field – another milestone on that winding road.
“Looking forward to embracing my role. Just taking it all in. It will just be another stepping stone in my career and I think I’ll have a realization once I run out of that tunnel and on to that field,” he said.
“I’m actually here, the long past year, the wait was definitely worth it.”