Three games away from the end of the 2019 season, Dante Absher finally got the opportunity to make his professional debut, something he had been dreaming of since he first stepped on a football field in second grade. He had been cut from the team at the end of training camp earlier that same year but was brought back shortly after to join the training squad. He kept his head down and put in the work all season long, hoping we would get his shot.
Absher’s time to shine finally came on October 26, 2019 as the Alouettes were going head-to-head with the mighty Ticats. “Montreal gave me my first opportunity. It was great that I could go out there and showcase my talents and give a great show.”
Clearly, he did not disappoint since he was moved up to the position of starting receiver the following game. His 8 receptions for 84 yards and one touchdown were enough to show Khari Jones he had what it took to compete in the playoff game against Edmonton. With Chris Matthews and DeVier Posey on the one-game injured list, he had big shoes to fill. He handled the pressure brilliantly and ended the third game of his professional career with 5 receptions for 60 yards. « It’s a moment I think about at least twice a week. I think about it all the time. »
To get to where he is today, Absher, listed at six foot three and 180 pounds, has had to navigate a long and winding road. In 2012, the young footballer received a partial scholarship to Glenville State, a small Division II school in his home state of Virginia. He was starting receiver all four seasons, playing 43 games and catching 214 balls for 2,670 yards and 29 touchdowns. He left his mark ranking fourth all-time at Glenville State in career receptions at 214 and 5th in career receiving yards with 2,669.
The following year, he was invited to the Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamp but was unable to attend due to a tear in his meniscus. He recovered, got some workout opportunities with a few teams, and while he was doing everything right, it seemed like the odds were against him. But he never gave up. His patience and perseverance paid off in October 2018, when he received a call from the Alouettes. A month later, he signed his first professional contract.
Absher has only good things to say about his time in Montreal and couldn’t be happier to be back for the upcoming season. “I’ve never been a part of a team that has such a brotherly camaraderie. I thought I would have been nervous, but everything just came so naturally because of the love in the team. I couldn’t ask for a better person to look after me than Vernon. When I think of a true leader, I think of Vernon.”
He’s also grateful to have had the chance to learn from seasoned veterans like B.J. Cunningham and DeVier Posey. “Those guys are legends, great, great veterans. When I ended up getting my starting spot, those guys were right there on the sideline cheering me on, they were so happy to see me play and be successful. There was never any hate or competition.”
In an ideal world, he would have kept the momentum going and returned the following spring ready to fight for a meaningful role in training camp. But the pandemic happened, and the season was canceled. Instead of dwelling on the negative, he took advantage of his time off to give back. “I’ve always wanted to help people and give back to the community, and use my name make the most out of every situation to help those in need.”
In November 2020, Dante worked alongside Hearts of Empowerment, a non-profit organization founded by his friend Correy Faciane, to host the Fall Giveback Campaign, an initiative providing homeless men and women the resources needed to help them get through winter.
Absher got the inspiration for the campaign from an encounter with a homeless man in Montreal. During the 2019 season, every time he came back from practice, he would see the same man at his metro station and felt compelled to help him, first giving him a few dollars, then bringing him meals.
“I started to talk to him a little bit. I just wanted to hear his story. Not because I was giving him food and money; Just because I thought maybe he didn’t have a friend to talk to.”
Christopher, the homeless man, told Dante how brutal the winters are out there and how a lot of people end up dying of hypothermia. That’s when the young receiver knew he had to do something and reached out to Hearts of Empowerment. “The winters get brutal in D.C. too, so I wanted to raise clothe and money, collect donations, and find a way to give back to the homeless.”
The drive that took place in D.C., an area increasingly affected by gentrification, was a raging success. “We received over 20,000 items. There were backpacks, coats, hoodies, pants, socks, shoes, hygiene kits. We had food to distribute. A lot of my friends and family came to volunteer, including one of my good friends and fellow CFL player Lucky Whitehead from Winnipeg. We were there on the corner for maybe 10 hours.”
This was his first time participating in a campaign of this magnitude, but certainly not his last. “I’m looking forward to trying to do it bigger and better every year and just keep growing.”
“Seeing the smiles on their faces was such a great feeling. I want to help in any way that I can. We all have problems but this puts things into perspective and reminds us that someone always has it worse than we do.”