May 30, 2022

Together Again

Did someone call for a college reunion?

Elie Bouka and Nick Statz have been reunited again after playing for the University of Calgary Dinos in 2015.

Back then Statz was a rookie and Bouka was the vet.

“I was playing behind him and he was the (guy) showing us all the drills so that I knew how things were supposed to look,” chuckled Statz. “I tried to pick his brain and watch him in practice to try and get better. Especially being the young guy, I wasn’t really playing much (at the time).”

Although Statz is on the humbler side when looking back at his collegiate years, Bouka remembers Statz’s talent from day one.

“I had been there for a few years, Nick came in and even as a rookie we all knew he could play,” said Bouka, “He was flashing all the time, he’s a guy that competes and comes in with intensity every day. It was great to have him with us and now it’s great to have him here.”

They developed a strong bond in university that remains to this day. While Statz continued to develop under the Dinos and Bouka transitioned into his pro career with the Arizona Cardinals and Saskatchewan Roughriders, the two stayed in contact.

“Bouka stays in the city in the off-season so we do see each other in training and on the field getting work in,” said Statz, “We’re always working together and building that relationship in the off-season. We still stayed connected even when he was playing for the Riders.”

In 35 games played with the Dinos, Statz would go on to record 94 tackles, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and win a Vanier Cup in 2019.

“When I came into university I was obviously a lot younger, I always kind of felt myself looking up to the older guys who were there, Elie Bouka, Robert Woodson, Adam Laurensse, Michael Schmidt, all the guys who were ahead of me.” said Statz.

No longer the fresh-faced student that Bouka met in 2015, Statz now has more experience under his belt and has been helping Bouka adapt to the Calgary system.

“Now, when he came here I tried to get him a little introduced to the terminology and the playbook,” said Statz. “He’s obviously a quick learner so he’s getting on the scene quick.”

For Bouka, being back in McMahon with his former teammate is the perfect fit.

“He had to show me the ropes when I came in, show me a little bit about how to do things and I’m really grateful to be with him.” said Bouka.

“It’s good to be on the same field,” he said. “We battled together, and it’s good memories. Everything looks familiar. I think it’s just a full-circle moment and I’m pretty happy.”

Their roles have reversed in certain aspects but at the end of the day, they’re just two defensive backs that want to keep working at their craft.

“So even though we’re playing on the same team (now in the CFL) I still feel that I learn a lot from him every day and I feel that he learns a lot from me and it’s kind of mutual in that way.” said Statz.

“Even though at the beginning I was showing him stuff here, he’s obviously been in the league longer than me so I still have that respect for him in terms of that mentor and mentee relationship.”

“He’s a brother.” said Bouka.

“Little brother. Big brother. It depends on the days, but, he’s a brother for me and that’s how it’s always been with the Dinos and it’s the same here.

“We love each other and care for each other and support each other in any way we can.”

Statz and Bouka aren’t the only Dinos on the Stamps roster. You could say McMahon Stadium is turning into Jurassic Park. There are currently nine former Dinos suiting up for the Red and White, with 2022 first-round draft pick Jalen Philpot as the latest addition.

The list also includes Carter Comeau, Connor McGough, Sean McEwen, Charlie Moore, Ryan Sceviour, and Richie Sindani.
All that local talent comes as no surprise to the homegrown defensive backs.

“The Dinos are a really strong program,” said Statz, “Historically, they get a lot of guys in the CFL. They’ve been having guys in the league for years and years and years so it’s just how you build that community.

“Especially in Calgary, I feel like a lot of people who are from Calgary still train at home. They come back here because they love the city. There’s a decent group of CFL vets in the city training and showing their faces around, so it’s good to meet with those guys and when you’re playing with them, it’s a cool moment.”

“Sometimes people feel that ‘Oh, it’s a Calgary team, they have to pick Dinos guys’ but it’s not like that.” Bouka explained.

“That’s just where the talent is and it’s easier to walk down the hall and grab the guys you want. I think there’s just so much talent in that program and it shows.

“There are a lot of good guys here, a lot of guys that used to wear red with the Dinos that are flashing here in camp and I’m happy to see that.”