BC Lions select CFL World Draft Karlis Brauns

TORONTO — He’s back to his natural blonde hair color, but Karlis Brauns expects to make a big splash at the BC Lions’ training camp opener.

British Columbia placed the free-spirited Latvian defensive lineman third overall in the CFL World Draft on Tuesday. In March, the six-foot-four, 270-pound Brauns turned heads by sporting pink hair at the CFL combine.

The pink hair was absent on Tuesday when Brauns spoke to reporters on a CFL zoom call. But he could certainly don another different color when he comes to the Lions.

“He (the color pink) is a bit of a maintenance guy and there are no public appearances so he’s gone but he’ll be back,” he said. “There was talk of going orange (one of the Lions colors) and I thought, ‘It’s not a bad idea’, so we’ll see.”

In March, Brauns opened up about why he dyed his hair.

“When you’re talking about defensive linemen, they have to be a little crazy and bully,” Brauns said. “That’s kind of the main thing I wanted to say.

“I’m not going to be discreet, I’m not going to take a break. I’m going to be crazy every time.”

But Brauns has been turning heads at the combine for more than her hair. He arrived in pristine condition — with between 12 and 13 percent body fat — then completed 29 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press and covered the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds.

“Having played in Europe for a while, that’s where it really starts for me because I would say it’s finally a chance to play some serious football,” Brauns said. “Getting drafted is great and I’m very excited, but that’s where the real work begins.”

The Montreal Alouettes selected Nigerian-born defensive lineman Kingsley Jonathan first overall. The 24-year-old has 101 tackles (60 solo, 21.5 for loss), 15 sacks, three forced fumbles and two digs in 56 career games with the Syracuse Orange.

But Montreal will have to wait for Jonathan, who agreed to terms with the Buffalo Bills on Saturday after being bypassed in the NFL Draft.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat Australian punter Bailey Flint with the second selection. Joel Whitford, another Aussie, took on punting duties in 2021 and this off-season the Eastern Division champions signed Irish-born punter/kicker Tadhg Leader, who is also a former rugby player.

But Flint will first attend the Pittsburgh Steelers mini-camp on May 13, which he said he told CFL clubs before the draft.

“Playing professional football is what I want to do,” Flint said. “I’m going to Pittsburgh Steelers mini camp, I’m going to compete.

“If I weren’t to end up signing a free agent contract after this camp or not being offered another contract with an NFL team, I would head to Hamilton.”

Hamilton claimed another Australian punter, Blake Hayes, to open the second round (10th overall) as five of the first 10 players selected were punters from Down Under. The Toronto Argonauts picked John Haggerty at No. 4, then two picks later the Winnipeg Blue Bombers picked Tom Hackett at No. 6 before Edmonton picked up Ben Griffiths at No. 9.

With the fifth selection, the Saskatchewan Roughriders took Swedish linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath. After Winnipeg’s pick, the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa Redblacks picked offensive linemen (Bamidele Olaseni of the United Kingdom and Hector Zepeda of Mexico, respectively) before Edmonton completed the opener.

Twenty-seven players from 12 countries were chosen over three rounds, including eight punters (seven from Australia, one from Belgium) and two kickers (from Brazil and Mexico, respectively). Australia led the way with eight caps.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 3, 2022.

Charles P. Patton