The transition from Tuscaloosa to Toronto isn’t that dramatic for Blake Sims. He’s still playing football. Now he’s crossed the border to begin his professional career with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.
“I’m just so excited for this opportunity,” said Sims, who played his high school football at Gainesville. “This is another stepping stone and a blessing from God to have this opportunity.”
Sims had NFL dreams out of college after finishing his senior season at Alabama with 3,487 passing yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. After a pair of setbacks, he made the best decision for himself and latched on with the CFL. He signed his contract with the Argonauts on May 28. He’s currently going through their training camp at York University in Toronto.
Toronto hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to open the season Tuesday.
Facing adversity is nothing new for Sims. He has always had to work for what he’s achieved, shuffling positions twice while at Alabama.
“I’m so proud of Blake that he’s made it to where he is,” said his father, Sonny Sims. “He’s going to work his butt off until reaches his goal.”
After finishing his fifth-year senior season at Alabama, Sims was anticipating hearing his name called in the May NFL Draft.
That call never came, even though he steered the Crimson Tide to the Sugar Bowl of the BCS Semifinals in 2015.
That’s when he started playing the free-agent market. He landed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers on May 3.
Sims was one of 25 players invited to try out in Packers rookie camp. He was going up against fifth-round selection Brett Hundley, who played at UCLA.
Sims was let go after his two-day tryout May 9.
Then he got a call from the Washington Redskins. They wanted to try him out as a running back, a position he played for a couple seasons at Alabama. After three days in rookie camp, Sims was cut by the Redskins May 17.
Despite the pair of letdowns, Sims’ agent Kyle Strongin didn’t stop working the phone. He found an eager suitor with the Toronto Argonauts. The biggest difference with the CFL is having 12 players on the field at the same time. Sims will battle for playing time with the Argonauts behind 35-year-old starting quarterback Ricky Ray, who has thrown for 52,063 yards and 279 touchdowns during his 12 career in the CFL.
“Blake’s got his chance now,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “I’m hopeful that he’s able to make it professionally.”
Sonny Sims said his son has the mental fortitude and physical tools it takes to make a life out of playing football. He said his experience, having to listen to the naysayers who said he wouldn’t make it at Alabama as a quarterback, only made him stronger.
“After he didn’t make it (with the Packers and Redskins), Blake looked at me and said, ‘I’m gonna go the long way to make it happen,” said Sonny Sims. “I know he’s got what it takes to be successful.”
Sims said the transition to living in Canada’s largest city has been relatively easy in his first week out of the U.S. His social network is his teammates as he learns his way around town.
“It’s kind of different here in Toronto but the people are very friendly, and they have a lot of great fans,” said Sims. “I’m just very excited for the season to begin.”
Even though he’s taken quickly to the change in his football career, there’s still one thing he hasn’t quite grown accustomed to yet since leaving Alabama.
“The only difference is not hearing coach (Nick) Saban’s voice on the practice field,” said Sims.
Weather is also a non-factor during the summer months. Sims said it’s been in the 70s every days since arriving.
Toronto’s 20-game regular season wraps up Nov. 6 against Winnipeg.