Baldwin grad Wild making impact in CFL
Summer is winding down, which means football players throughout the area are preparing for the upcoming season.
However, there's one local product who already is in the middle of the football season ... some 1,300 miles away.
Baldwin graduate Ian Wild is a starting linebacker with the Calgary Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
The Blue Bombers entered the week with a 5-2 record and in third place in the CFL West Division — in the thick of the playoff race — and the 6-foot, 208-pound Wild is a major reason why.
While Wild technically is a linebacker, his position is similar to a defensive back in the United States version of the game. He ranks third on the team with two quarterback sacks and is tied for fifth with 19 tackles.
“I am technically a linebacker, but I'm playing back in coverage a lot of the time, playing like a defensive back,” said Wild, who is in his second season with Calgary. “Teams pass a lot more in the CFL.”
Canadian football is similar to football in the United States in many ways, but also drastically different in others.
The most notable differences with the CFL include a larger field, 12 players on the field per team, more pre-snap motion and only three downs as opposed to four.
Adjusting to those rules was quite a challenge at first for Wild.
“Adjusting to the differences was definitely a challenge last year,” he said. “It took me at least three months to get used to the different rules, mainly all of the motion. The receivers and running backs can all be in motion at the same time.
“It's tough to keep track of formations and where the receivers are, where the running backs are.”
Difficult or not, he clearly adjusted well. In his first CFL season, Wild finished with 69 tackles, a sack and returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown.
“It's been a great experience. There are only nine teams in the CFL, and there are a lot of die-hard football fans, which was surprising to me,” Wild said. “In the western cities especially, football is a little bigger. When we go out in groups to restaurants, the owners will sometimes take care of us. There are fans asking for autographs, it's pretty cool.”
Wild arrived in Winnipeg after a stint with the Buffalo Bills and a standout collegiate career at Mercyhurst University. He ended his collegiate career tied for eighth all-time in Mercyhurst history with 304 overall tackles.
As a senior, he led the Lakers with 90 tackles and seven sacks and was the team's defensive MVP.
Area football fans remember Wild's prowess on the field during his playing days at Baldwin, when he led the team in tackles and was an all-conference selection in both his junior and senior seasons.
Wild's short-term goal is winning the Grey Cup, which is the CFL's version of the Super Bowl. It's still early in the 20-game CFL schedule, which runs through early November.
“We have a pretty good shot at winning the Grey Cup this year,” he said. “We're a pretty good team, especially skill-wise.”
Wild is keeping his options open.
“Career-wise, this is my second option year in my contract,” he said. “I'm going to play it out and see what happens when I become a free agent. Interest from the NFL would be great, but if I get a decent deal in the CFL, I would be pretty comfortable continuing my career here.
“I'm having a good time with the CFL. Whatever happens, happens. I'll go with the flow and go with the best opportunity and see where that takes me.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.