To assist their reeling offense, the New York Guardians have brought in Derek Dennis, an accoladed blocker from the CFL.
The New York Guardians didn’t have to look far to find valuable help for their reeling offense.
This week, the team announced the signing of tackle Derek Dennis. The Queens native recently made a name for himself in the Canadian Football League, reaching the league’s All-Star Game three times and winning its Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award in 2016.
“This is home for me. It’s a nice opportunity to come back in front of friends and family and do what I’ve been doing for the past eight or nine years, do it back home for the first time,” Dennis told ESNY during practices at Torne Valley Athletic Complex this week. “Over the years, when I bounced around with different leagues, different teams, I always learned how to take stuff away from the different coaches that I had, always build a certain game that people would love to watch play. I pride myself on playing physical, playing fast, playing with technique.”
Dennis, 31, was born in Queens, NY and attended Peekskill High School in Westchester County and Trinity-Pawling School in Dutchess. He would then spend five collegiate seasons at Temple (2007-11) before going undrafted in 2012. After appearances in NFL training camps in Miami and New England, Dennis joined up with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. Two more NFL camp invites followed before another brief stint with the Rattlers in 2015.
His CFL calling came in 2015 with the Calgary Stampeders. Dennis worked his way from Calgary’s practice team and was a starter by the next year. Thanks to Dennis’ efforts in 2016, the Stampeders allowed the fewest sacks in the CFL and running back Jerome Messam led the league in rushing. Dennis was thus given the league’s top blocking honor. Notable fellow winners include ex-New York Giants center Brett Jones and former CFL Players’ Association president Scott Flory.
Dennis would spend the 2017 campaign with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before returning the Stampeders for two more seasons. Calgary would go on to win the 106th Grey Cup in 2018, topping the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16.
After becoming a CFL free agent, Dennis joined “Team 9”, the XFL’s de facto league-wide practice squad and farm team. The Guardians brought him in with the offense struggling to gain traction over the last two weeks on the road. Done in by some absences on the line (including starting guard Garret Brumfield, who was placed on injured reserve this week), the Guardians (1-2) have been outscored 56-9 over the past two weeks in losses to DC and St. Louis.
“I think I’ll bring a certain toughness and grit,” Dennis said to ESNY. “Being a New York kid myself, I know what the city has and what it looks for in its sports teams. I feel I can kind of relay that message to guys on the team, to bring that physicality, bring that grit, and also that cerebral part. Bring the smarts, and bring it all together.”
The Guardians (+8) return to action on Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium against the Los Angeles Wildcats (2:00 p.m. ET, ABC).
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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags