When Fresno State took on San Diego State on October 29th, Dontae Bull’s final season as a Bulldog was flipped on its head, as he left the game with a broken leg, and missed the final two months of the season.
Suddenly, Bull had gone from an offensive lineman some thought would be getting looks with NFL clubs, to a guy worried about how far he might fall in the CFL Draft. At the time of the injury, he was living with his girlfriend’s family, who helped keep him in the right headspace during his recovery – along with his mother.
Without them, he’s not sure how he could have coped with the shock and disappointment of losing valuable reps, during a time that is supposed to be the best of his life. But Bull was able to lean on them, and they helped him turn the corner.“I was devastated, my season was over, I knew that for a fact,” Bull said. “Everyone was telling me that things were going to be okay, but no one knew that for sure. That was really hard, but [my family] tried to keep me busy, whether that was watching a new show or just talking.”
His mother, in particular, had a great influence on Bull, not only after his injury, but by setting an example of the kind of person to be away from the game.
“My mom is the biggest reason I am who I am on and off the field,” said Bull. “I’ve taken after a lot of her great attributes, and I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s given me. She has put me in a position to be successful.”
Even with the “dark moments” during his rehab process, Bull had his head focused on what was coming next. When it wasn’t the NFL, he took it in stride, knowing the CFL was a good place to end up.
Ottawa was among his favourite destinations after meeting with a handful of personnel, and he stressed whether they agreed or not, but when he got the call saying he’d be the first-overall pick, it was euphoria.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Bull said. “It’s something that I’m super proud of, and it just shows how hard I have worked over the last 19 years of playing football. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m really proud that I did this for myself and my family. I’m going to a place that I felt comfortable with and that I wanted to go to.”
The Canadian game isn’t entirely new to Bull, despite his NCAA ties. He played American rules in high school, as all schools do in British Colombia, but when he was younger, he played some quarterback for youth teams who played Canadian rules.
That experience is rather out of date by now, and there aren’t too many transferable skills between a quarterback and a towering six-foot-seven tackle who is going to face pass rushers who have made pivot’s lives nightmares for years, but Bull isn’t worried, and is excited to return to his roots.
“You’re giving me a yard now, so I’ll have some more time to get my feet in the ground and get my speed going,” Bull explained. “It’s going to give me some time to get underneath guys, even more than I did in college.”
Bull believes that Fresno’s diverse playbook will help his transition to the Canadian game, but those plays won’t help in other aspects of his life, as he moves to the nation’s capital with relatively short notice.
“It’s definitely a little stressful trying to get everything into motion,” Bull said. “You have to pack up your whole life and move somewhere brand new, and that’s stressful, but it’s also exciting. It’s a new opportunity, and it’s a chance to make your mark.”
When he moves to Ottawa, he’ll be by himself to start, but already, his family have been discussing plans to see him play, and trips have already been scheduled.
“They’re gonna make trips to games [in Ottawa], and they’ll be at our game in B.C. in September,” Bull shared.
Missing so much football has left Bull wanting more, and with rookie camp now open, excitement is the only thing on his mind.
“I’m excited to be back on the field, it has been a long six months,” Bull said.