Together again: ex-Rams Anthony, Carroll aim to catch on with Riders

A pair of Mount Douglas Rams’ football graduates not only share a first name, but a desire to make it with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.

Alex Anthony will head back for his third season in Regina — having spent most of the last two years on the practice roster, but earning a Grey Cup ring in 2013 — with the Western Division club as it begins main camp on the weekend.

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His former Mount Douglas teammate, Alex Carroll, left Tuesday for rookie camp after signing as a free agent about three weeks ago.

The two are reunited and it feels so good.

“Obviously, it’s exciting. It’s been something I’ve been working toward for a number of years now. There will be lots of competition, so now I have to continue to make plays,” said Carroll, 23, who played five seasons at Queen’s University, but was coming off a knee injury in 2014 and was not drafted that spring.

The nearly six-foot, 195-pounder is a receiver who plays inside or outside.

“I had a good fifth year [in the summer and fall of 2014] and had a chance to show what I can do. In a lot of ways it was a blessing to have another year to prove myself,” said Carroll, who impressed the Riders enough at a CFL combine to get on the team’s negotiation list. He was then invited to a mini camp in Florida and performed well enough to get the offer.

He and Anthony, also a receiver, started playing together in the Renegades program before moving on to Mount Douglas. Anthony was a senior when Carroll was in Grade 11.

“We go way back. He was a guy I looked up to forever. It’s pretty cool now that we’re competing at the pro ranks,” said Carroll, who also faced Anthony when he was a receiver at Wilfrid Laurier, where he was selected in the fifth round, 39th overall in the 2013 CFL draft.

“It’s wild,” Anthony said of having Carroll around, yet again. “It’s pretty cool having Alex there. We played football together for a long time, probably since we were 12 and then we played against each other in university. To see him do well at the regional combine, then get picked up for main camp. We were actually roommates down in Florida [at mini camp].

“I’ve known him for such a long time and to see what he’s been through [with the knee injury] and to overcome that and pursue his dreams and get that much closer … to experience that with an old friend is just awesome,” he added.

“I’ve always known him as little Alex, even though he’s just as big as me now,” said Anthony, 24, who played three regular-season games and last year’s Western semifinal as a backup receiver for the Riders. “I’ve watched him grow over the years and it’s great to see him chase his dream.”

Anthony also suited up for a game in 2013 and made two catches for 13 yards that day. That was the season the Riders won the Grey Cup with a 45-23 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats right in Regina, a football crazed city.

Anthony has already shared stories of CFL-mad Riders’ fans.

“The coolest thing about it is I’ve never even been through Regina. It’s the best fan base in the country,” said Carroll. “That’s why I went to Queen’s — it was a football-minded school, but we’re taking it to another level with this.”

Which Anthony will be able to help Carroll with when camp opens in Saskatoon and then moves on to Regina.

“The fans are absolutely amazing. For them, the season doesn’t just start in June and go to November, they’re wild all-year round,” said Anthony. “When my girlfriend and I were in Mexico in January, there were fans rocking their Rider green on a beach. They make it a fun atmosphere to play in and be a football player in.”

But he knows it will be all business when main camp opens later this week.

“Those four weeks of training camp are very competitive,” said Anthony, who was looking forward to working under new receivers coach Jeremaine Copeland, a former CFL all-star.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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