VANCOUVER — Maxx Forde’s first highlight with the B.C. Lions wasn’t the day the defensive lineman was drafted, his first game, his first start or his first sack.
It happened when he was a toddler perched on his father Brian Forde’s shoulders after the linebacker helped the club win the 1994 Grey Cup — a moment immortalized on a VHS tape.
“The video’s probably in storage somewhere, but I’m sure I could dig that up,” said Maxx Forde, who was just three when the Lions beat Baltimore 26-23 in a thrilling title game at B.C. Place Stadium. ”I don’t remember the actual moment, but we’ve got a picture of me, my mom, dad and little sister with the Grey Cup.
“I have some very brief flashbacks. It’s kind of like snapshots. I remember my dad would bring me in the locker-room and guys like (Canadian Football Hall of Fame kicker) Lui Passaglia would give me a pop.”
While talking about those times brings a smile to his face, the road that would eventually bring Maxx Forde back to the team hasn’t always been an easy one.
Born in Seattle, Maxx and the Forde family settled just outside the city in Woodinville, Wash., when Brian’s playing career ended.
The younger Forde excelled on the football field in high school before he committed to the University of Idaho, where he registered 83 solo tackles and six sacks in 46 career games over four seasons.
The NFL was the dream, but as Maxx was preparing for a senior year at Idaho that would be hampered by injury, another door opened when the CFL and its players signed a new collective bargaining agreement in June 2014.
The document loosened the rules on what constituted a “national” — or Canadian — player, meaning Maxx would be eligible for the draft because Brian was born in Montreal.
“I knew the CFL was a good league,” Maxx Forde said after practice last week in Surrey, B.C. ”It came on my radar pretty late that I would be a national.”
But that would just be the first step in what turned into a long and sometimes frustrating path.
Forde expected to be taken somewhere in the first few rounds of the 2015 draft. He instead fell to No. 58 — there were only 62 picks — and B.C. selected another defensive lineman, Ese Mrabure, fifth overall.
“I wasn’t sure if they forgot about me,” the six-foot-five, 262-pound Forde recalled. ”I came into the day with high expectations. I was kind of dejected, but I’ve used that as fuel.”
The Lions said despite taking a flyer on Forde in the seventh round, his raw numbers scored the highest with the club’s analytics department.
“He had a lot of good measurables,” said B.C. defensive line coach Robin Ross, who held the same position at Washington State in 1986 when Brian Forde was setting a school record for tackles in a season. ”You take everything into consideration and look at where you think they’re going to be.”
What made the Lions take Forde, who owns a business, marketing and finance degree with a minor in statistics from Idaho, still intrigues him.
“I don’t know what their model exactly stresses,” said Forde. “I’d love to be in their shoes one day in the front office.
“I like trying to make sense of the world through numbers.”
He didn’t amass any numbers in a rookie season spent on the practice roster, but did enough to stick around because of his size, speed and intelligence.
Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono also had a history with Brian Forde, and was confident Maxx’s pedigree would eventually translate.
“Nobody realized how long it would take,” said Buono. “When he got here you could see the kid was serious. He had a great work ethic.”
Only three players from the 2015 draft remain on B.C.’s roster — Mrabure was cut the following training camp — while running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, a third rounder, was released and re-signed this season.
Maxx Forde suited up five times last year, but has taken a massive stride in 2017, appearing in all 10 of B.C.’s games.
The 25-year-old picked up his first sack and forced fumble in late July against Winnipeg, and has nine tackles as part of the club’s defensive line rotation.
The Lions sit stewing on their bye week with a 5-5 record after three straight losses, but as Forde’s journey demonstrates, keeping faith is a big part of the battle.
“It wasn’t always the brightest outlook,” said Forde, who wears his dad’s old No. 48. ”It was pretty bleak at times, but I kept trucking ahead and believed that I could do it. It didn’t happen right away, but it’s happened for a me a little bit this year.
“I’d like to keep taking steps in my career and keep progressing as it goes forward.”
Considering where they found him and the route that led Forde back to B.C., that probably suits the Lions just fine.