The remarkable journey of 2024 CFL Draft prospect AK Gassama.

AK Gassama's remarkable journey from playing basketball with his siblings during Sierra Leone's civil war to captaining the Manitoba Bisons American football team is truly inspiring.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) has a special prospect for the next draft and his name is AK Gassama, who lived in Sierra Leone during the civil war. "My family and I came to Winnipeg, Manitoba as refugees, so it's been kind of like coming to a whole new world," said the African. 

"I didn't pick up a football until I was in fifth grade. Every time we played football was at lunchtime, just backyard schoolyard football or throwing the ball around and catching it," he continued. 

According to Gassama, it was the father of one of his closest childhood friends, who also happened to be a coach, who motivated him to join a team and pursue his passion for playing American football.

AK Gassama during a training session. MANITOBA BISONS FOOTBALL
AK Gassama during a training session. MANITOBA BISONS FOOTBALL

"I used to get into a bit of trouble here and there. I think it was just because I had so much energy. He went to my parents and said, 'I think this would be a really good positive outlet for AK,'" explained the African talent.

He then played as a defence and running back for a neighbourhood minor team called the Fort Garry Lions. He then progressed to high school, eventually reaching the provincial level. It was during this time that he switched to receiver. "I was told all my life, 'You're really short. So they told me to play receiver and I was like okay, I just want to play football," AK said.

Gassama secured himself a scholarship to play for the University of Manitoba Bisons in 2017. There, he reached the milestone of becoming the seventh player in programme history to record 100 catches and 1000 receiving yards, a feat not accomplished since 2008. 

He secured the eighth place in programme history for receiving yards with 1346. Gassama was also recognised for his outstanding performances with the fourth-highest single-game receiving yards (210) and the fifth-most receiving yards in a season (749) in 2022. 

"I'm super blessed and super proud of them for these accomplishments", said the 2022-23 Bison Sports Male Athlete of the Year and two-time All-Canadian.

Gassama's performances have earned him an invitation to the 2024 CFL Combine, which will be held in his hometown. As he prepares for the event in March, he is training hard in Houston to optimise his performance. 

"My main focus is to show the scouts and coaches that I'm a complete football player. I can run routes, I can take the top off, I can catch the football, I can be a team player!," stressed the African. 

While he is grateful for any opportunity within the league, Gassama insists that being selected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would be hugely significant and mark a poignant full-circle moment in his journey.

"I mean, I've watched the Bombers grow up all my life, right? That would be crazy, especially with the combine being in Winnipeg. It's just, there's something about my hometown that has shaped who I am," commented Gassama. 

"It will show a lot of kids coming from where I come from that you can do anything you put your mind to. My mom always told us that if you don't know where you're going, then you should know where you came from and that will guide you along the way," he concluded.