Men’s Football News

When UBC Thunderbirds alumnus Malcom Lee was approached by NFL Flag Vancouver to collaborate with his brand, he knew it would be a perfect opportunity to help support grassroots football in British Columbia. 

“They run a youth league in Vancouver and with the Olympics now having flag football, we thought it was a cool idea to do an NFL-style combine,” said Lee. 

Lee runs an online platform called Showtime Digital, which was founded by NFL and CFL players and aims to highlight emerging athletes and their stories. 

Together, Showtime Digital and NFL Flag Vancouver worked on putting together a camp in North Vancouver that would host the top 130 high school football players in the province, as well as a youth group ranging from grade three to seven — all looking to prepare for future potential college football opportunities. 

“Our commitment is to empower young talent with the skills and values that extend far beyond the field,” said Bashiru Sise-Odaa, UBC football alumni and Head of Player Development at NFL Flag Vancouver. “Everything from testing and comparing stats to fun dances and camaraderie during intense competition.”

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The list of talent and trainers brought in to assist the participants on and off the field were made up of a number of former U SPORTS football players, current CFL and NFL players, and coaching staff from across North America. 

  • Sukh Chungh, Calgary Dinos alumnus and BC Lions offensive lineman 
  • Rashaun Simonise, Calgary Dinos alumnus
  • Jalen Philpot, Calgary Dinos alumnus and Calgary Stampeders receiver 
  • Tyson Philpot, Calgary Dinos alumnus and Montreal Alouettes receiver (2023 Grey Cup Champion)
  • Brock Gowanlock, Manitoba Bisons alumnus and Montreal Alouettes defensive end (2023 Grey Cup Champion)
  • Michael O'Connor, UBC alumnus
  • Peter Godber, Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive lineman 
  • Anthony Thompson, BC Lions defensive back 
  • Lucky Whitehead, BC Lions receiver 
  • Dakoda Shepley, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman 
  • Jordan Linnen, Manitoba Bisons alumnus and Defensive Assistant for the Saskatchewan Roughriders
  • Cole Meyer, former UBC Offensive Assistant and currently at Heritage High School in Georgia
  • Rob Williams, Quarterback and Movement Coach at SportCore Performance

“We are just trying to have high level talent and a high level group of athletes and give them a good atmosphere to get better,” said Lee. 

This meant allowing the young athletes to get officially tested in the 40-yard dash, L drill, and broad jump, which was followed by a teaching period that included being broken up into position groups with respective coaches and then putting the skills they learned to the test with one-on-one and seven-on-seven competition periods. 

“Our goal is to connect current college and professional athletes with the youth of the next generation,” said O'Connor. “Kids need a dream and they need to dream big too.”

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Lee says though on-field skill development is huge, he was also looking at providing opportunities during the camp to teach the kids how to maneuver the digital space as athletes who are coming through recruiting. 

“A goal of mine is to leave the game in a better place than we found it.”

Top performers were professionally recorded during testing to ensure that there would be chances for the right eyes to take notice, both in person and online. 

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“The footage goes directly to some head coaches,” said Lee. “Western Mustangs Head Coach Greg Marshall will have access, Head Coach Michael Faulds at Laurier, and Head Coach Blake Nill at UBC.”

Having grown up in Vancouver then playing for the Thunderbirds as a receiver and defensive back from 2015 to 2018, following a season at the University of Nevada, Lee says being able to give back to his city means a lot. 

“Growing up in Vancouver, I was privileged to have a lot of the older guys be around me,” said Lee. “And they passed the knowledge and skills down to me, so it's just like a cycle, it's now my opportunity to reach out with the local guys.”

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Credit UBC Thunderbirds

Lee transitioned from offense to defense in 2016, where he racked up 95 tackles, seven interceptions, 21 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in three seasons and was named a Canada West All-Star in 2017. 

He says that he owes a lot of his success during the position change to UBC Defensive Coordinator, Pat Tracey. 

“He kind of just saw how I was moving as an athlete and gave me that opportunity to switch,” said Lee. “That whole process was very cool for me, just being able to overcome adversity and learn something new.”

According to Lee, this has driven him in his career and in turn, wanted to make sure that everyone participating in the combine left with something, whether that be a new skill, technique, or learning more about recruiting.

“I was telling kids if you come to this camp and you didn't learn one thing, that's on us, you'd have a refund, like, that's fully on us.”

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And when it comes to potentially hosting more events like these in other areas of the country, Lee says he is open to it but is not in a rush. Instead, Showtime Digital’s next venture is an app set to come out around the end of 2024 that aims to help the next generation of athletes network and even find mentorship.

“It's our Free Game app,” said Lee. “Younger kids can log on and talk to pro athletes in the NFL and CFL. That'll be a cool way we can still be tapped into the youth and the grassroots level, but still continue to play.”