May 29, 2024

Training Camp Notebook Day 18: Undrafted Gendron hoping to make name for himself

Nicholas Gendron (79), PHOTO: Pascal Ratthe

Nicholas Gendron sat and waited for his name to be called in the 2024 CFL Draft, but the moment never came. Instead of sulking, the University of Ottawa receiver got right back to work.

Even though it took a few weeks, Gendron finally got the call he was looking for when the Alouettes contacted him roughly a week into the start of training camp. The 25-year-old grew up a diehard Alouettes fan during the Anthony Calvillo era, so joining the Alouettes was a dream come true for him.

“I was hoping to get drafted,” said the Alouettes’ number 79. “But I knew when I didn’t get selected that it wasn’t over for me. I continued to work out, run routes, and go to the gym. I was just waiting for an opportunity. I have a chip on my shoulder, but just the fact that the Als called me makes me happy. I can’t complain. Football has always been my passion, so I’m blessed to be able to continue to do this.”

Gendron doesn’t have an agent, so the team contacted him directly on a Friday night after he had just finished working a shift at his job as an airport security agent.

“They just gave me a call after work, and I’ve never been that happy,” Gendron explained. “I called my boss and told him I wasn’t coming back to work on Monday because I was going to Montreal (laughs). He gave me his blessing.”

In each of his first three seasons with the Gee-Gees, he’s found a way to improve his totals from the previous season. In 2023, he caught 31 passes for 535 yards and two touchdowns. By his own admission, he isn’t the flashiest receiver, but he fit in very well in his first pro camp. He runs crips routes, catches what’s thrown to him and has found a way to compete against defensive backs in practice.

“I’ve improved my technique,” said Gendron. “The way I run my routes and the way I adjust to the ball while it’s in the air. But the most important thing is that I just catch the ball. At the end of the day, that’s what the coaches look for. They want to see who is going to make plays and who is going to catch the ball. I’ve never been the most flamboyant, but I always find a way to make the catch.”

Cracking the final roster won’t be easy. The Alouettes are deep at receiver, and they have several Canadians at the position that are more proven at the pro level. Tyson Philpot and Kaion Julien-Grant will start, while Shedler Fervius, who was a key contributor on special teams last year, is back for his second year. Veteran tight end Regis Cibasu has also played as a pass-catcher over the last few seasons, and fifth-round pick Frederik Antoine is also trying to crack the lineup.

To stick, Gendron will need to have a strong performance at TD Place in Ottawa on Friday night. He knows the venue well, as the Gee-Gees play their home games on that field. The 25-year-old from Gatineau, Quebec will also be playing close to home with plenty of friends and family in attendance.

“I’m just going to do what the coaches ask me to do,” he said of his objectives for Friday’s game. “If they want me to catch a deep ball, I’ll go grab it. I want to make sure I make all my blocks and make sure I do exactly what the coaches expect. On special teams, I just want to maximize every opportunity I get. I want to make sure I have no regrets. I want to give my all. If I have a chance to make a play, I’m going to make sure I make it.”

Final Day in Saint-Jerome:

The Alouettes will have their final on-field session in Saint-Jerome on Thursday, as they’ll conduct their walkthrough outside the Centre sportif Claude-Beaulieu. The team will head to Ottawa on Friday for their final preseason game of 2024.