Laurier Football scout Dave Morrissey has spent his time in quarantine reaching out to and catching up with former Golden Hawk Football alumni. The result was a series of interviews with notable members of our Laurier Football community, which Dave was kind enough to share with us.
Ese Mrabure-Ajufo was a force on the defensive line for the Hawks from 2011 to 2014. An OUA All Star in his senior year, he was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 CFL draft by the British Columbia Lions. Currently a free agent looking for a new team, he has found his current joy in spending time with his new daughter Imani.
(Dave Morrissey): Why did you choose to come to Laurier?
(Ese Mrabure-Ajufo): Kelvin Muamba, who was my high school teammate at Mount Carmel in Mississauga and also at WLU, is the one that turned me on to Laurier. I was looking for a small school to attend, like STFX in Halifax, but the problem for me was that was too far away from home. Laurier made it possible to experience that small school feeling and still be not too far away from my family.
(DM): What do your feel were your greatest and most difficult moments on the field during your time at WLU?
(EMA): My greatest moment was a particular play during my last home game as a Hawk vs Guelph. On one particular 2nd and long, Guelph ran a reverse sweep play where the QB fakes the handoff to the running back, and then flicks it nonchalantly to a WR coming across the other way. I was the boundary end and I sniffed it out and make a tackle for a huge loss.
(DM): I remember that play vividly. It was in the 2nd half of a wild comeback. We had an awful first half (down 36 to 4) and mounted a furious rally only to end up losing 41 to 36. I really thought we were going to come back and win that game but we fell just short.
(EMA): My worst experience on the field was the first time in training camp when the rookies had to compete against some of the veterans in practice. Offensive Linemen Donnie McKenzie buried me into the ground on my very first rep of the day.
(DM): Safe to say you got much better after that! You have now spent 5 seasons in the CFL: one with BC, and two each with Saskatchewan and Calgary. Can you compare those experiences for me?
(EMA): It’s been quite a wide range of experiences, some more obvious than others, from the attachment of being drafted in the 1st round by BC and having my first career starts be in front of the wildest fans in the league to winning a Grey Cup with a team (Calgary) that I formerly hated because they were such a huge rival. The best part of all 3 teams was the locker room. The memories shared and created with the fellas are irreplaceable!
(DM): What have been your best and worst moments in the CFL?
(EMA): I would say my best moment was my third year. I was playing with Saskatchewan. I was playing with a broken hand but I was still able to compete at a very high level. The worst moment would have to be the last time I dislocated my shoulder. I was on the bottom of a short yardage pile when a helmet crashed into my deltoid with my arm firmly planted in the ground. I heard a crack and a pop and that finished my season. I came back the next season but after 2 games I had to get surgery.
(DM): Who was the toughest player you had to face in the OUA and in the pros?
(EMA): In the OUA, it was my former teammate Donnie McKenzie. In the CFL, Stanley Bryant of the Winnipeg has always done a good job on me. Maybe I beat him twice but both times the ball was already gone so it didn’t even matter anyways.
(DM): In the CFL draft this year, WLU DL Sam Acheampong was drafted in the 2nd round by Toronto. This is the 4th time in 5 years that Laurier has had a defensive lineman drafted high (Kwaku Boateng and Robbie Smith were the others). That’s an incredible run for DL at WLU!
(EMA): I like to think that I set the tone with the success or at least had some influence on the others. A huge factor of course is Coach V and his defensive schemes. As a young man coming into the OUA, I didn’t know too much about football. I got by mostly with athleticism. Coach V slowly moulded me and put me in a position to be great. Kwaku stayed with me on his recruiting trip, loved his time, and later on he paid it forward. Shamawd Chambers was an early mentor too.
(DM): What is the most bizarre thing you have seen happen in a football game?
(EMA): I had a teammate for 2 seasons that would cry and throw up before every kickoff! Another time, I put someone ‘to sleep’ on a KOR and the guy stumbled, leaned over to the side with his eyes rolling forward and back, his speech was slurred. Then he collapsed and got up all woozy saying “I’m okay, I’m okay.”
(Editor’s Note: Nine interviews in, I have to say that was my favourite response so far!)
(DM): So, I hear you are a new dad. Congratulations!
(EMA): Yes, Imani is an angel that came into my life in October 2019. She’s made me look at life through a completely different lens and it’s been such a blessed ride. She teaches me so many things daily.
(DM): I know what you mean. My daughter is now 21. I still refer to her as ‘the living extension of my heart’. Give me your 3 best get pumped up songs to listen to before a game.
(EMA): Traffic by Chief Keef & Lil Reese, Mobties by Drake, and Mistress by Gunna.
(DM): What is your favourite football movie?
(EMA): The Program. I remember watching that on a road trip with the Mississauga Warriors back in 2010.
(DM): Thanks for doing this Ese. I hope to see you on out the field soon. Now that you are local, check out a store called Maximum Deals in a mini mall on Dixie Road. The have tons of CFL gear for toddlers.