It has been a long road for Shaydon Philip, but after a few hectic months the 24-year-old linebacker from St. Albert has finally made it to the big-time.
Philip played in his first two CFL games with the Edmonton Elks this past week, appearing in the Sept. 6 Labour Day Classic against the Calgary Stampeders and the subsequent rematch on Sept. 11.
The Paul Kane alumnus said it was amazing to not only play in the CFL, but to play in the highly-touted Labour Day Classic, which he grew up watching.
“It was a dream come true,” said Philip. “Being able to go back and forth with the Calgary guys, I know some of them well, it was fun, really competitive, and brought the best out of everyone, so it was an amazing experience to play against the Stampeders in my first two games.”
His journey started like many other players who make it pro. He grew up in St. Albert and was a part of a sports-obsessed family. His mother was a football fanatic while his father gravitated toward basketball. His mom eventually got him to join the St. Albert Minor Football Association, and while things started off a bit rocky, he came around to loving the sport.
“My mom signed me up for minor football at the atom level ... I remember the first day she took me out to run some laps and I ended up crying saying that I never wanted to do it again,” laughed Philip. “I had a really good experience with [St. Albert minor football]. I played for the Jaguars, and it kind of just took off from there.”
As he progressed through minor football, he eventually transitioned to high school football, playing for the Paul Kane Blues. He said his time with the Blues only pushed him harder to pursue his dream of eventually playing the game at the professional level.
“It was always the goal [to play professionally], then in high school, in my Grade 12 year, I had a pretty good season and started talking to a couple of teams,” said Philip. “I kind of realized that if I put the time in, there was a good chance [that I could make it].”
One of those teams was the University of Alberta. They offered Philip an athletic scholarship to play with the Golden Bears football team and he took it. He played the entire 2019 season with the U of A before eventually signing with the Calgary Stampeders.
Philip values every team he played for throughout his life, though the U of A holds a special place in his heart as it was his last stop before the pro ranks.
“Playing at the U of A helped me so much,” said Philip. “I had amazing coaching from the top down ... it prepared me a lot getting to and playing in this next level ... I’m just so thankful that I chose the U of A.”
The next stop was Calgary. He entered the 2021 season trying to make the Stamps out of their training camp. Philip made it deep into the camp but was released in the final round of cuts before the season, making him a free agent.
Philip said he half-expected the cut but wasn’t about to let that stop him. He got back to work and a new opportunity arrived at his doorstep a couple of weeks later.
“I had an OK camp, I kind of knew throughout the camp that I wasn’t playing my best football,” said Philip. “It obviously sucked getting cut but I kind of almost saw it coming ... I wasn’t too down on myself I just got back into the gym and started working on the things I could control.
“I got lucky enough to get a call from the [Edmonton] Elks and I took advantage of the opportunity because I know how quickly this business can let you go.”
The Elks signed Philips to a contract on Aug. 10 and he made his way into the line-up for the two games against the Stamps, almost as if to give him a second chance after being cut by the Calgary club.
But Philip wasn’t focused on retribution. He was too busy reveling in playing for his hometown team.
“It’s everything I could have dreamed of, having family and friends right here brings a comfort level,” said Philip. “Professional sports are tough, there’s a gruesome schedule and it’s nice that when I get a day off, I can spend it with the people I love ... so that makes it really easy.”
He also gets to represent his community at the highest stage. He said a lot of kids gravitate toward hockey but the football community in St. Albert is one that is on the rise.
“One of the biggest things that I want is to be that kind of role model for football in St. Albert,” said Philip. “It's awesome for these young kids to see that it is possible coming out of St. Albert ... just put your head down, get your school done, and then it’ll pay off.
“The days that suck, the days that are great, it all pays off.”You can catch Philip’s Edmonton Elks action this Saturday as they take on the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. For more information on the CFL schedule and how to watch the Elks visit their website at https://www.GoElks.com.