When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Dallas Cowboys had chosen defender Neville Gallimore in the third round, a total of 82nd in last month's NFL draft, calls began to flood the local Ottawa phone.
First it was the cowboy owner Jerry Jones of his $ 250 million yacht.
Then congratulations from friends and family.
To Gallimore's surprise, he also received a tweet from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, who won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Like Gallimore, Montana had been the 82nd choice, the fourth quarterback selected in the 1979 draft.
"Believe me, it's not too bad to be the 82nd draft election," Montana tweeted. "But don't let yourself be defined where you were chosen – be a sponge, take it all in. Work hard and when your chance comes, show them what you can do."
Congratulations @ Path2Greatwork! Believe me, it's not that bad to be the 82nd draft election. But don't let yourself be defined where you were chosen – be a sponge, take it all in. Work hard and when your chance comes, show them what you can do! #NFLDraft https://t.co/ccR1Mdtuvx
– Joseph Montana (@JoeMontana) April 25, 2020
It is Gallimore's work ethic that is the basis of his football success. Gallimore's mother and father, the son of immigrant parents from Jamaica, preached the importance of hard work and education. Neville's older brother, Garry, fueled his sporting craving as the two GUS basketball defensive player of the year with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.
Gallimore attended St. Patrick’s High School in Ottawa and watched the older boys' soccer training in grade 7. When Gallimore entered high school, he was the first to come to the team's first training session of the season.
"He couldn't wait to get started," said St. Patrick's coach Tim Baines. "When he was young, he was physically prepared for high school play."
Baines said Gallimore was physically advanced for his age, but it was his mental strength and preparation for games that separated him from his teammates. When first training as a freshman, Gallimore was excited to play defense, but also wanted to queue up to run back.
Baines tested his versatility.
"In one game we ran him back and he scored two touchdowns," said Baines. "You could have taken him anywhere and he could have made a difference."
At 14, Gallimore dreamed of playing for the Sooners at the University of Oklahoma. However, to enter a Division I program, Gallimore had to compete against American schools.
To achieve this level of awareness, many of the best Canadian football prospects switch to preparatory schools in the United States to improve their recruitment status. Before the Clemson Tigers recruited him, the great recipient Ajou Ajou traveled more than 4,000 kilometers from his hometown Brooks, Alta, to play at the Clearwater Academy in Florida. Class 2020 prospect Lamar Goods moved from Fort McMurray to Oakdale, Connecticut to play football at St. Thomas More School before signing with the Florida Gators.
But Gallimore stayed in Ontario and played at the Canada Prep Academy in Welland. Gallimore was trained by Geoff McArthur, a former recipient of the University of California Golden Bears, and competed against American schools with the Canada Prep Academy. He showed his explosiveness and speed on the defensive line.
Gallimore's achievement earned him the honor of being the first Canadian to be selected for the U.S. Army's All-American Bowl in 2015. He was also classified as a four-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports and had 30 offers from Department I NCAA programs.
In the end, Gallimore selected the Sooners and joined Oklahoma when the program turned into an offensive juggernaut thanks to quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, who were awarded head coaches Lincoln Riley and Heisman Trophy.
He was dressed as a freshman with a red shirt, and the defense fought for the next three years – until 2019, Gallimore's senior year, when Alex Grinch assumed the role of defensive coordinator. Grinch introduced a movement scheme, a hybrid 3-4 base defense, with the goal of having defenders like Gallimore run between the blockers and chase the ball in the background.
"Neville was the team captain in his senior year," said Calvin Thibodeaux, the Sooners defensive coach. "He is a source of energy that is sure of himself. He will rush the passers-by and make great efforts. You cannot buy this sportiness from Wal-Mart."
Gallimore became the first Sooners defensive player in a decade to win the first-team All-Big 12 award, ending his career in Oklahoma with a total of 148 tackles, 18 defeats, nine sacks, five forced fists and three college football playoff appearances.
To build on his college experience, Gallimore traveled to Frisco, Texas last February to participate in a development camp led by Pete Jenkins, a coach who trained at high school, college, and professional levels for 54 years . This year's camp consisted of 21 defenders, a mix of college and professional players.
Jenkins, who also worked with the University of Manitoba alumnus and the New Orleans Saints defense device against David Onyemata, saw Gallimore's athleticism and willingness to improve.
"Both Neville and David are great role models for Canadian children who want to make it to the NFL," said Jenkins, a former defensive coach at the LSU Tigers and the Philadelphia Eagles. "Neville is a fast learner, a hard worker who can make this adjustment to the pro level."
25 years ago, it was a dream for a Canadian child from Ottawa to play college football in Oklahoma and be drafted by the cowboys. With different camps and clinics across the country and the technology to send recruitment videos to schools, NCAA programs can more easily identify Canadian perspectives.
"I just hope that the game evolves in the sense that coaches and scouts are ready to go where they need to go to find the talent," Gallimore told the combine about The Athletic. "I don't speak for Canada; I don't speak for Ottawa. I speak for the children who have a dream and grow up, watch football, grow up with this passion and have this talent and work ethic – that if you have a desire to play, you don't have to bother to be found, they will find you. "