It’s a question kids get asked all the time by adults over their formative years and the answer can often change on a daily/hourly/minute-to-minute basis.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Kyle Borsa’s answer was always the same: a football player. Actually, his answer was even more specific than that.
“I knew I wanted to play professional football before I even started playing it,” began Borsa in a recent chat last week with bluebombers.com. “My family has been a football household, my dad played college here in the city and I’ve always loved the game.
“I’ll always remember sitting in a Boston Pizza here in Regina with my mom and grandma and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, ‘a CFL football player.’ Then they said, ‘What if that doesn’t work out?’ and I said, ‘Well, then I’ll play in the NFL.’”
Borsa laughs here and there is both a hint of excitement and relief in that response. A versatile running back and returner with the University of Regina Rams who was also on the school’s track team, Borsa was selected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the fifth round, 39th overall, in this month’s Canadian Football League Draft.
Even before the event he had hinted at the Bombers being an ideal destination for him, given the club’s commitment to starting a Canadian at tailback and how they effectively use Nic Demski’s skillset as a receiver/running back in the offence.
“He’s who I aspire to be with all the things he can do on the field,” said Borsa of Demski. “I’ve watched a lot of film. I want to be one of those dynamic players you can hand the ball to, throw the ball to, and have them do anything you need on specials.
“I don’t think there’s a better spot for me to be, to be honest. I don’t know where I might fit or anything. All I know is I’m going to come in there and try to earn my spot on the team.
“I know nothing is going to be handed to me, especially for someone who they might have had doubts about to begin with. I know there’s uncertainty and a question mark on my head, so I have to come in there and open some eyes. I’m hoping I can do that.”
Those doubts and uncertainty stem from Borsa’s suspension in 2019 after a positive drug test. He’s upfront and honest about the mistake he made – and of the subsequent toll it took on him.
“Here’s the condensed version of what happened,” explained Borsa. “Very simply put, being a student athlete can be overwhelming at times and I was just really tired. I thought a quick solution would be to go get a pre-workout before my lift. That’s what I did. I went to a store in Regina and just asked them for a cheap pre-workout that would give me some energy for my workout. They pointed me to one.
“Obviously where things went wrong is I didn’t research what it was. I just bought it and started taking it blindly before our team lifts.”
In October of 2018 he did a random drug test and in mid-November, was dealt with some devastating news: he had failed the test, as the supplement he had been taking contained higenamine, a banned substance.
“When I found that out there was just confusion,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t know what it was… I never had any intent of cheating or putting a PED into my body. I thought (the test) had to be false. When I found out there was something in the supplement that was false… that led to a suspension that we had to appeal. It was like a little court case. There were lawyers involved and they ended up giving me a 16-month suspension for it and I had to miss my 2019 season.
“It was a difficult time, a very dark time in my life,” Borsa added. “I felt like I was done unfairly considering what I actually did and that the people who gave me my suspension didn’t put themselves in the shoes of a student athlete and didn’t treat me like a person.”
That’s why being drafted and taking this next step is so critical for Borsa. He’s lived a personal hell over the last couple of years, first with the suspension costing him 2019 and then the pandemic robbing him of a 2020 season.
And then there’s the anger and frustration and embarrassment that comes from all of that.
“You said embarrassment… that sums it up right there,” admitted Borsa. “There were lots of times where in my city I was known as a ‘cheater.’ I had a label on me that was completely false. I had a very bad rep in the city. I’m just really glad that’s behind me now and that my football legacy won’t be remembered as that.
“I’m ready to get going with the next chapter and that’s why draft night for me… I can’t even describe it. I had all this relief and all this excitement. It was like a dream came true in one phone call. All the things that have happened to me and the things I’ve had to go through now I think it might actually help me. I’m that much hungrier of a player.”
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