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What a difference a year makes.
Alex Singleton thinks back to what he was doing last spring when he was on a Minnesota Vikings futures contract and doing his CFL Combine interviews online.
A few months before, he had received his Canadian citizenship – a privilege available to the California native because his mom, Kim, was born in Toronto.
He wound up being drafted by the Stampeders with their first pick, sixth overall, but wasn’t sure he would end up in Calgary right away.
“It’s been crazy,” says Singleton. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to come up here because I was still under contract down there. Then, all of the sudden, that didn’t work out and, two weeks later, I was up here.
“And it’s really changed my life, you know? I haven’t gone home yet. It’s been amazing. I’ve loved every minute of it but it’s definitely been wild.”
Singleton made his first-ever trip to Calgary in time for 2016 training camp, earned a spot on the team and, by Labour Day, had taken over the starting middle linebacker role.
The Montana State grad began the season earning his dues on special teams and steadily seeing more action on defence. He played all 18 games, starting 10, and finished second on the team in total tackles with 74.
Somewhere along the way, Singleton decided Calgary was where he wanted to spend the off-season to train.
“I talked to Bo (Levi Mitchell) and (Deron) Mayo super early in the season to be able to set that up for this off-season,” says Singleton about training at Canada Olympic Park.
“It’s been awesome. There are Olympic athletes in there, so as much as we think we’re big, fast and strong, you see these people work so hard for their one sport. They don’t get as much publicity as football does obviously, but just the way they work out, it’s so cool to be around people like that. And then obviously with Bo and Mayo, it’s awesome having them there.”
Another important reason the 23-year-old wanted to stay in Calgary was to get involved in the community. He’s made numerous appearances through the Special Olympics of Calgary, the BOKS program and is a member of the Stamps basketball team which plays junior high and high school teams in the area.
One of his favourite things he’s been doing this off-season is heading to the ’Dome for Flames, Roughnecks and Hitmen games.
“All of them are a good time,” he exclaims.
He recently took his mom and sister, Ashley, to watch the Flames beat their hometown L.A. Kings in overtime. He wore his new Flames jersey while Ashley sported a Kings shirt but she admitted to being happy for the Flames because she likes them, too.
Singleton also made his first trek to The Rockies, snowboarding at Sunshine Village as part of Charleston Hughes’ Winter Fun Day.
“I grew up snowboarding,” says that native of Thousand Oaks, who used to drive three hours with his family to Big Bear Lake. “I learned when I was two or three years old so I’ve snowboarded my whole life.
“That was my first time up in Banff and I thought it was beautiful,” admits Singleton, who can’t wait to visit again. “I’m planning on going back soon and then definitely in the summer because I still haven’t been in the summer and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.”
It’s already been a jam-packed off-season but that’s not all, folks.
Next week, he’ll be flying to Regina for the inaugural CFL Week with about 50 other CFL players to take part in festivities including TSN promotional shoots, fan events and a flag football clinic for kids. He’ll then stay a couple extra days to watch his younger brother, Matt, take part in the National Combine.
Like his brother, Matt is also a linebacker and got his Canadian citizenship in October of 2015. He played his college football at Black Hills State in South Dakota.
“I’ve just been giving him pointers because I think Coach (Brent) Monson is running the linebacker drill so I’ve been telling him what he’s going to have to do,” says Singleton. “He’s just getting ready and it’s cool because I get to go there for the CFL Week and then stay the extra days to watch him compete and I’m just excited to see the next class of guys coming in.”
A year ago, Singleton had never been to Calgary. Now it’s a place he calls home.
“I just love being here,” he says. “I love where I live. And I just thought it would be a good opportunity to just stay in rhythm and keep staying involved.”