B.C. Lions call on Vernon standout in CFL draft

Canadian Football League club selects former VSS Panthers star Ben Hladik in third round of league draft

Ben Hladik (Morning Star - file photo)

Ben Hladik (Morning Star - file photo)

Home province kid. Watching the B.C. Lions growing up. Selected in Canadian Football League draft by the Lions. Soon to be playing for them.

Life for Ben Hladik in the spring of 2021 is pretty fine.

At approximately 6:25 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday, May 4, the Leos made Hladik their third-round selection with the 22nd pick overall in the CFL draft.

“It seems surreal, a dream come true,” said Hladik, 22, a linebacker with the UBC Thunderbirds, from his parents’ home Wednesday, May 5. “I’m from Vernon, I grew up watching the Lions and now I’m a member of the B.C. Lions. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Hladik was the fifth linebacker chosen in the draft. He had been ranked pre-draft as high as No. 2. One TSN writer had Hladik going to the Lions fourth overall in a mock draft.

Hladik’s stock rose after the CFL combine season, which puts draft prospects through a series of drills in front of team scouts and personnel. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hladik, described by one CFL website as a “physical freak,” ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 29 times on the bench press.

He was a defensive captain for the Thunderbirds in 2018 and 2019 to go along with back-to-back Canada West All-Star and U SPORTS All-Canadian nods. Hladik finished second on the ‘Birds in 2019 with 48.5 tackles, the fourth-highest total in the Canada West. He added two sacks and an interception which he ran back 50 yards for a touchdown. Hladik was also named Canada West’s top defensive player in 2018.

Hladik, studying psychology, missed his senior year with the T-Birds in 2020 due to COVID. He led the Vernon Panthers to their first B.C. AA Subway Bowl high school football championship game in 2016, where they lost to the No. 1 ranked Seaquam Seahawks of Delta. Hladik became the first Vernon player to be named provincial AA MVP that season.

He watched the draft with his family.

“The wait (for his name to be called) felt forever,” laughed Hladik. “I can’t wait to get started and to play football again.”

Panthers head coach Sean Smith is elated for his former MVP.

“Not only because it’s a huge accomplishment, but because he’s worked so hard to get there,” said Smith. “So to see him rewarded for all that he’s sacrificed and worked for over the last seven-to-eight years of his football life is a great feeling. I’m so proud that he’s been able to maximize his talents to reach the highest level. Ben has definitely earned this opportunity to play professionally.”

Smith said Hladik will use being drafted in the third round as motivation for the other eight CFL teams making a mistake in taking a pass on him.

“I have no doubt that he’ll do whatever it takes to make the Lions roster and get on the field quickly,” said Smith.

UBC head coach Blake Nill called Hladik the “steal of the draft” for the Lions.

“Ben was the first kid who committed to us after the Vanier Cup win in 2015 and I thought we hit the jackpot right there,” said Nill on gothunderbirds.ca. “I looked at that kid and thought he’d be one of our best, and he’s never let us down. Ben has been (defensive coordinator Pat) Tracey’s go-to guy for four years. He’s been a leader as a young man, played every position we felt we needed an advantage at and he’s just a tremendous individual. He’s going to be a tremendous pro, he’s going to do everything they ask.”

Hladik’s UBC linebacker teammates Nick Cross and Elliot Graham were also picked Tuesday. Cross went in the first round, ninth overall, to the Hamilton Tiger Cats while Graham was selected by the Calgary Stampeders in the fourth round, 29th overall.

“I’m very, very happy for the players but I’m also proud of what it represents for our program,” said Nill who has now overseen 22 players drafted to the CFL in his six years with the T-Birds.

The Lions made five picks Tuesday.

In the first round, they took defensive end Daniel Joseph from North Carolina State and went with offensive lineman Alaric Johnson from Iowa in Round 2. The Lions didn’t have a fourth-round pick and finished the six-round draft by choosing defensive lineman Alfred Green from Wilfrid Laurier University in Round 5, and offensive lineman Tyler Packer from the University of Calgary in the final round.

“All the picks that we made are guys that have potential,” said Lions director of football operation Neil McEvoy on bclions.com. “In Ben, he’s another exciting athlete that’s going to come in and hopefully be with our football team for years to come.

“He’s a guy that will develop into a linebacker or defensive lineman and take some reps with the first-team group. You want guys who have the opportunity and athletic ability to complement what you currently have. He’s certainly a guy I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced on April 21 that the league would return to play in 2021 after cancelling 2020 due to COVID.

The league is planning a 14-game season starting on Aug. 5 (league normally starts in June) and the Grey Cup, usually held on the last Sunday in November, is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Hamilton. League plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country.

READ MORE: Thunderbirds high on Hladik

READ MORE: Ben Hladik of Vernon named U -Sports All-Canadian



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC LionsCFLLocal SportsUBC

Just Posted

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read