Dhel Duncan-Busby chasing pro football dream with stop at CFL combine

Mar. 18—WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Dhel Duncan-Busby's dream of playing professional football is about to get a big boost this week.

Bemidji State's standout senior wide receiver has been invited to showcase his skills amidst a group of prospects hailing from Canada at the Canadian Football League's 2024 National Combine, slated for March 19-24 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Duncan-Busby, a native of Brampton, Ontario, on the outskirts of Toronto, was ranked as the No. 13 draft-eligible Canadian collegiate player in the CFL Scouting Bureau's winter rankings. The 2024 CFL National Draft will take place at 7 p.m. CT on April 30 in Toronto. It consists of eight rounds with 74 total selections.

Duncan-Busby has never played Canadian football before, but he's looking forward to showcasing his skills in front of the league's decision-makers on a big stage.

"(I'm hoping to) get introduced to the CFL game with it being so different from the American side," Duncan-Busby said. "Talk to teams and get a feel as to where things stand on for me on the Canadian side."

Unlike in the United States, where 11-on-11 is the standard, the CFL plays 12-on-12, adding a skill position player on each side of the football. Unique in the Canadian league is the waggle position, a receiver who can run toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Such a motion is illegal in the American game.

"I watched a little bit of tape on receivers doing that," Duncan-Busby said. "It's definitely interesting. I feel like a running start would work into my favor. I feel like it'd give me a full head of steam, and if you let me run a vertical (route), it's going to be fairly hard to keep up.

"But what I have noticed is that a lot of the defenses, they play a lot further off the ball than what they do out here. Because (in the U.S.), you can press and not have to worry about somebody running at you."

All the nuances and intricacies of the Canadian game will require time to absorb. For now, Duncan-Busby plans to keep things simple and showcase his ability for all who might be interested — a group that could include NFL scouts as well.

"I'm almost taking it as a game," Duncan-Busby said. "I'm not letting it get too big and letting the moments overtake what is about to come. I've trained and done all that kind of stuff for the last three months, and (I've) just got to trust it and take it one day at a time."

Duncan-Busby has been honing his skills at Training HAUS in Eagan, where Bemidji State quarterback Brandon Alt has also trained in preparation for his professional future. In addition to displaying his athleticism, Duncan-Busby hopes to forge relationships with representatives from all nine CFL teams and maximize his chances of finding the right fit.

"I would love to talk to all nine teams and hash out things and get a feel for each of the organizations, but I don't really have any other goals," he said. "Run fast and jump high is really what I'm looking for."

Duncan-Busby previously competed at the NSIC's in-house combine, which was held last Wednesday at Concordia-St. Paul. He completed 14 repetitions on the bench press, jumped nine feet and eight inches in the broad jump and recorded a 33.5-inch vertical leap.

Duncan-Busby ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.33 and the three-cone drill in 7.19.

At the CFL combine, he hopes to improve upon his short shuttle, vertical and three-cone results.

"The short shuffle and the three-cone are the two that I know I can do better on," Duncan-Busby said. "As soon as I ran it, I was like, 'I know exactly where I messed up.' I wish I could have been able to redo it again."

He'll get his chance in Winnipeg, and he feels he'll be more relaxed after already experiencing a combine setting in St. Paul.

"It was nice to see the numbers," Duncan-Busby said. "Now that I got this out of the way, I feel like I can almost put it past me. Now, it's not going to be as nerve-racking when (this) week comes around, which would be nice."