A former Carabin from the Université de Montréal turned professional footballer, Brian Harelimana is living the dream of many young apprentices in the region.
You don’t really realize it. When I was drafted, it took me a while to realize that I was really going to play pro football in Montréal for the Alouettes.
For the former Carabin player, it was his baptism of fire as a professional linebacker when he took the field for the first time on September 3rd in an explosive game against Ottawa. A game in which he certainly made his mark by producing two defensive tackles.
When I got my chance, I took it. You don’t get many chances to make a first impression.
Self-aware, Harelimana knew that as a rookie on a team with more than 60 players, he wouldn’t magically receive a starting position. Yet after biding his time on the practice squad, the six-foot-two, 228-pound Harelimana has carved out a spot in the defence after eight games.
The journey wasn’t easy, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I started on the practice squad, but the coaching staff encouraged me to work hard because I was doing well.
That patience paid off for the 25-year-old Laval native. In eight games, he was able to produce five defensive tackles, including three on special teams.
I try to have an impact on every game. I don’t want to do too much because I play with professionals. Everyone is good and everyone is capable of making plays so when my number is called I just want to do my job. If it helps us win then great.
They say it’s a small world, but Harelimana’s is especially tight. By joining the Alouettes, he renewed acquaintances with Danny Maciocia and Byron Archambault, who coached him during his university years. Familiar faces made it easier for him to fit in and added a special boost to his game.
When I arrived at my first day I already knew that people trusted me. I just needed to trust myself and show what I could do.
I’m learning a lot, it’s my first season. We have a really good group of people and a good atmosphere, so it’s really a golden experience. (…) It reminds me a little bit of the locker rooms at the Université de Montréal with the strong brotherhood. It’s super fun.
The future is unknown, but the Alouettes may have found a true defensive stalwart and future veteran in Harelimana. In fact, he hopes to become a household name and continue to garner accolades in his hometown.
Today I have the chance to play professionally in my city and I feel even luckier. It’s everything I hoped for and more.
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