There’s another Wyoming Cowboy headed to the combine. Yes, I know the NFL combine has come and gone, and the Denver regional combine has also come and gone. But this is a different combine. This is the CFL regional combine in Edmonton, Alberta. Who’s the Cowboy? Former safety Jake Schiffner, a native of Calgary, Alberta. When I last talked to Jake he had dreams of being the next Brock Ralph. For those of you who don’t know, Brock Ralph was a former Cowboy receiver, a Canadian native, who had a nice career in the Canadian Football League. Schniffer wants to be the next Cowboy to be a Canadian star, following in the steps of Ralph, Tom Wilkinson, Corey Mace, and Gabe Knapton.
Schiffner has been training in his native Calgary since his graduation in December. Jake had an interesting story about getting to train in the Calgary Stampeders facilities recently. He wants to be near a 4.6 40 time, he wants to hit 24 on the bench press, 36 inches on the vertical, and sub-4.2 in the shuttle, broad jump he wants to be 9’10”. Having good technique has important for these drills.
“I walk into the training room and little do I know, and I’ve never seen him in person, but it’s Corey Mace sitting on one of the trainer benches and he sees the Steamboat logo on my sweatpants and he just loses his mind. He’s like, ‘Do you go to Wyoming? Do you know the fight song?’ and I was like, ‘yeah’ and Corey Mace and I just start singing the Wyoming fight song in the training room as loud as we can.”
If Schniffer is lucky enough to get a roster spot with the Stamps, I’d say that song will become pretty popular in the locker room by the end of the year.
Schniffer says that Canadian players in the NCAA have an advantage because of the way they study game film, prepare for opponents, and the players they play against every day. Playing against guys like Dominic Rufran and Robert Herron, Schiffner says, gives him an advantage in Canada because of the caliber of players faced every day in practice, rather than what the CIS presents on a day-to-day basis.
Playing behind Marqueston Huff and Tashaun Gipson also helped Schiffner prepare. Jake said his best advice he got as a Cowboy was from Cowboy defensive back Darren White who said, “trust your instincts, don’t think about anything, if you see something and you read it, play your gut.” Schiffner said that’s the best piece of advice he got while he was at Wyoming.
This will be a transition for Schiffner as he has been playing the American rules of football for the last four and a half years and will need to transition back to the Canadian rules that he grew up with. He said working with his old coach from high school has helped him transition quicker back into the game. Schiffner said playing a receivers hips and knowing their speed is one of the bigger challenges of the CFL, due to the wide receiver having a 10 yard running head start when he hits the line of scrimmage. Being able to react to a slot receiver is key in a CFL offense.
Jake’s CFL heroes include quarterback Jeff Garcia, who started his career with the Calgary Stampeders after leaving San Jose State, then eventually going to the NFL and playing for a number of teams. Currently Garcia is a coach for the Montreal Alouettes. Schiffner wants kids to look up to him the way that he looked up to Garcia in that he always made time for the fans.
The CFL atmosphere, Schiffner says, is much like the following in the NCAA rather than the NFL. The fan bases have grown up with their teams. The Toronto Argonauts are the oldest franchise in North America that have kept their original name. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, being one of the most dedicated fanbases in the CFL, will travel anywhere for a football game, much like many NCAA fans do for their teams. He said the teams build state of the art stadiums, but only hold 35,000 fans. And they’re always sold out.
Jake says this past season was the hardest he’s gone through as a Cowboy. He says his brotherhood with his SigEp brothers helped him get through the season. He said a lot of his friends saw how tough it was. The SigEp brothers came out for senior day with banners flying in support of Jake. As I mentioned in my last interview with Jake, he was the only member of the Greek fraternity system at UW that was a member of an NCAA team this past season. This made him a pretty unique breed at UW.
After the Boise State game, despite not playing on Senior Night, and Boise having the game on hand, Jake’s little brother Nolan Rap told him, “it speaks a lot to your character that they’re going to continue to stick it out to the end of the season” after asking Jake if he was going to practice the next day. Jake’s friend, Dylan Smith, said he embodied the model of the SigEp man, continuing to play through five years of football, despite not playing much. Jake’s role on the team was immeasurable though, helping his teammates prepare for every game for five years.
The fraternity experience helped Jake become the person he is, and kept him driving through five years of football and school. He has the highest amount of gratitude for his fraternity brothers who helped him along the way. Without SigEp, Jake says he wouldn’t have made it all five years at UW.
He even has a debt of gratitude to for ex-Cowboy head coach Dave Christiansen who traveled Jake to away games, despite being on the practice squad, because of the hard work he put in with the team. Coach Christiansen called Jake the week he graduated from college and congratulated him on graduating. Jake appreciated that he was always straight forward with the guys and awarded hard work in the ways that he could.
Thanks to Jake for interviewing with me, and good luck in the CFL combine!