B.C. Lions call on Vernon standout in CFL draft

Canadian Football League club selects former VSS Panthers star Ben Hladik in third round of league draft

Ben Hladik (Morning Star - file photo)

Ben Hladik (Morning Star - file photo)

Home province kid. Watching the B.C. Lions growing up. Selected in Canadian Football League draft by the Lions. Soon to be playing for them.

Life for Ben Hladik in the spring of 2021 is pretty fine.

At approximately 6:25 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday, May 4, the Leos made Hladik their third-round selection with the 22nd pick overall in the CFL draft.

“It seems surreal, a dream come true,” said Hladik, 22, a linebacker with the UBC Thunderbirds, from his parents’ home Wednesday, May 5. “I’m from Vernon, I grew up watching the Lions and now I’m a member of the B.C. Lions. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Hladik was the fifth linebacker chosen in the draft. He had been ranked pre-draft as high as No. 2. One TSN writer had Hladik going to the Lions fourth overall in a mock draft.

Hladik’s stock rose after the CFL combine season, which puts draft prospects through a series of drills in front of team scouts and personnel. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hladik, described by one CFL website as a “physical freak,” ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds and lifted 225 pounds 29 times on the bench press.

He was a defensive captain for the Thunderbirds in 2018 and 2019 to go along with back-to-back Canada West All-Star and U SPORTS All-Canadian nods. Hladik finished second on the ‘Birds in 2019 with 48.5 tackles, the fourth-highest total in the Canada West. He added two sacks and an interception which he ran back 50 yards for a touchdown. Hladik was also named Canada West’s top defensive player in 2018.

Hladik, studying psychology, missed his senior year with the T-Birds in 2020 due to COVID. He led the Vernon Panthers to their first B.C. AA Subway Bowl high school football championship game in 2016, where they lost to the No. 1 ranked Seaquam Seahawks of Delta. Hladik became the first Vernon player to be named provincial AA MVP that season.

He watched the draft with his family.

“The wait (for his name to be called) felt forever,” laughed Hladik. “I can’t wait to get started and to play football again.”

Panthers head coach Sean Smith is elated for his former MVP.

“Not only because it’s a huge accomplishment, but because he’s worked so hard to get there,” said Smith. “So to see him rewarded for all that he’s sacrificed and worked for over the last seven-to-eight years of his football life is a great feeling. I’m so proud that he’s been able to maximize his talents to reach the highest level. Ben has definitely earned this opportunity to play professionally.”

Smith said Hladik will use being drafted in the third round as motivation for the other eight CFL teams making a mistake in taking a pass on him.

“I have no doubt that he’ll do whatever it takes to make the Lions roster and get on the field quickly,” said Smith.

UBC head coach Blake Nill called Hladik the “steal of the draft” for the Lions.

“Ben was the first kid who committed to us after the Vanier Cup win in 2015 and I thought we hit the jackpot right there,” said Nill on gothunderbirds.ca. “I looked at that kid and thought he’d be one of our best, and he’s never let us down. Ben has been (defensive coordinator Pat) Tracey’s go-to guy for four years. He’s been a leader as a young man, played every position we felt we needed an advantage at and he’s just a tremendous individual. He’s going to be a tremendous pro, he’s going to do everything they ask.”

Hladik’s UBC linebacker teammates Nick Cross and Elliot Graham were also picked Tuesday. Cross went in the first round, ninth overall, to the Hamilton Tiger Cats while Graham was selected by the Calgary Stampeders in the fourth round, 29th overall.

“I’m very, very happy for the players but I’m also proud of what it represents for our program,” said Nill who has now overseen 22 players drafted to the CFL in his six years with the T-Birds.

The Lions made five picks Tuesday.

In the first round, they took defensive end Daniel Joseph from North Carolina State and went with offensive lineman Alaric Johnson from Iowa in Round 2. The Lions didn’t have a fourth-round pick and finished the six-round draft by choosing defensive lineman Alfred Green from Wilfrid Laurier University in Round 5, and offensive lineman Tyler Packer from the University of Calgary in the final round.

“All the picks that we made are guys that have potential,” said Lions director of football operation Neil McEvoy on bclions.com. “In Ben, he’s another exciting athlete that’s going to come in and hopefully be with our football team for years to come.

“He’s a guy that will develop into a linebacker or defensive lineman and take some reps with the first-team group. You want guys who have the opportunity and athletic ability to complement what you currently have. He’s certainly a guy I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced on April 21 that the league would return to play in 2021 after cancelling 2020 due to COVID.

The league is planning a 14-game season starting on Aug. 5 (league normally starts in June) and the Grey Cup, usually held on the last Sunday in November, is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Hamilton. League plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country.

READ MORE: Thunderbirds high on Hladik

READ MORE: Ben Hladik of Vernon named U -Sports All-Canadian



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC LionsCFLLocal SportsUBC

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Flag exhibit is now set up in the Chemainus Valley Museum. (Photo by Val Galvin)
Fibre artists put their unique twists on climate change exhibit

Red Flag warning label affixed to collection now on display at the Chemainus Valley Museum

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Many questions emerge from opioid dealer’s sentence

Leniency hard to fathom, especially after judge’s harsh words

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Most Read