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(Posted: 6 p.m., April 14)
Panthers' coach and former player to try out for Ottawa RedBlacks
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

When Orleans native and Cumberland Panthers alum Qasim Khan tries out for the Ottawa RedBlacks later this month, his nephew Huzaifah Rana, who plays for the Orleans Bengals, will be cheering him on. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Qasim Khan loves football. He loves to watch it, he loves to teach it, but most of all, he loves to play it. The former Cumberland Panther, Junior Rough Rider, Ottawa Gee-Gee, and until recently Ottawa Invader, wants to add one more team to his resume -- the Ottawa RedBlacks.

The 30-year-old offensive lineman is currently preparing for the audition of his life -- a tryout with the CFL's newest franchise.

For Khan, trying out for the hometown Redbacks is an opportunity to take care of some unfinished business.

In 2009, he was added to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice squad on the advice of his older brother Obby Khan who was the team's staring centre at the time and enjoyed an eight-year CFL career with the Ottawa Renegades, Blue Bombers, and the Calgary Stampeders.

During his stint with the Blue Bombers, Khan was just happy to strap on a pair of shoulder pads and spend some time with his brother. A year later he was back in Ottawa playing semi-pro football with the Ottawa Invaders.

The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School grad never got the chance to suit up for a regular season game with the Blue Bombers, let alone play a down. He's hoping to fulfill that dream with the RedBlacks

"Absolutelty it's about unfinished business," says Khan. "I still have that fire in me and the passion to play professional football. I'm not expecting to make the starting roster, but I think I would make a great sixth man. Even if I made the practice roster, I would still be doing something to help my hometown team."

Khan has plenty of motivation as he prepares for the upcoming tryouts. His nephew Huzaifah Rana plays minor football for the Orleans Bengals and the players on the Cumberland Panthers mosquito team, which he helped coach they last two years, are all rooting for him.

"It's all about following your dreams," says Khan. "I want to be an inspiration to my nephew and my Panther kids and to everyone who's ever believed in me over the during this football journey I've been on."

The last year has been a journey in itself for Khan. After playing football in one form of the other for the past 15 years, he took a year off from the gridiron to get his personal life in order after going through a divorce.

He also had to get back in shape. During a visit to the doctor in June, he was told that he was no where near playing shape. He weighed 322 lbs and his cardio was questionable at best.

Ten months later he's in the best shape of his life as evident by his performance in a pair of recent indoor practices with other lineman hoping to make the RedBlacks. In 40 reps, he was only beaten twice.

"I've never felt better, honestly," says Khan. "I'm ready to go for it."

The RedBlacks recently held a mini-training camp in Richmond, Virginia on from April 9-10 for the 78 hopefuls who are already under contract. The open tryouts will be held on April 27 with posible invitations to the main training camp up for grabs.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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