Lacombe native Tanner Green was selected by the Edmonton Eskimos in the fourth round of the CFL Draft last week. (Advocate File Photo)

Tanner Green, the ultimate underdog: from the Central Alberta Bucs to the CFL

Tanner Green is working his final days renovating apartments in Red Deer with bigger plans on his mind.

Studying playbooks and training occupy the rest of his time and his thoughts these days.

The 25-year-old Lacombe native is about to complete his ultimate underdog story later this month.

It’s a journey that sometimes he doesn’t even believe is real – from cutting together highlights of his Central Alberta Buccaneers senior football games to becoming a 2018 fourth round pick of the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL draft.

“When I first started playing Bucs, I didn’t even think I would start for them. To go from that mentality, to then it was CIS, now here, I just have to keep working and I know that I can do what I set my mind to,” Green said.

“I had my wife at home and I had the work, that was the plan prior to this journey. I’m really glad that we took the leap of faith and just went for this.”

Green was picked by the Eskimos in last week’s draft and is set to attend training camp in the coming weeks, before possibly suiting up in a preseason game on May 27 at Commonwealth Stadium.

“It’s going to be a dream realized but I need to make sure that I’m still working towards what my next goal is. The next goal is going to be the Grey Cup,” said the six-foot-two, 241-pound running back.

How Green even made it onto the CFL radar in the first place is a testament to never giving up on your dreams.

He hung up his football cleats after playing in high school with the Lacombe Rams, before returning to the game in 2015 with the Bucs.

His highlight videos from his lone season with the Bucs, which he posted on Facebook, got the attention of friends then college recruiters. Of all the schools that came calling, Concordia University in Montreal felt like the best fit. From 2015-2017, he suited up for the Stingers, but the numbers did not resemble that of a “can’t miss” prospect.

He recorded just two tackles last season in three games on defence, and in 2016 had six carries for 11 yards, scoring one touchdown. He also caught a five-yard pass.

Yet, in his first year at Concordia, he was voted the Stingers’ player with the best work ethic by his coaches and teammates.

That commitment to working hard and getting better never wavered for Green, he said.

It carried over to this winter, where he excelled just enough at the Western Regional CFL combine to make the national combine, one that only 51 other players were invited to.

“With the regional, I had a lot of nerves. Testing was fine. I hit the numbers I thought I was going to but in the one-on-one’s and stuff, the nerves were going and it was hard to get comfortable,” Green said.

“With the nationals, I felt a lot more comfortable because I had done it three days before. The nerves were gone and I got to let loose. I got faster in my 40. The one-on-ones were way better, I don’t think I lost one.”

At that point, he was interviewed by five of seven CFL teams, and he knew there was a chance his name could be called on draft.

Still, when he was selected by Edmonton 32nd overall, he was speechless.

“It’s a dream come true. On draft day I could barely even speak when I saw that Edmonton was calling me,” he said.

“I’ve worked extremely hard over the last four or five years to get here.”

He advises other not to doubt themselves.

“For me, it’s been hard along this whole process not to say to myself well, ‘you’re not good enough to do this’. With enough work and drive and want, I’ve been able to surpass whatever I thought I could do in this sport. It just keeps getting better.”

Green said he understands that what he’s learned on this journey is something he can’t just keep to himself.

He hopes to share that story with young football prospects who don’t know there’s always a way forward if you believe hard enough. He wants to go to spring camps to talk to younger players.

”I remember when I was back in high school, I had no idea that going to the CFL or playing professional sports was even in your grasp,” said Green.

“It would be amazing to go out to these younger teams and tell the kids if you want this bad enough, you can make it.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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