The McNeese State-to-Canada pipeline grew on Thursday when the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League announced the signing of former Cowboys defensive end Chris Livings.
Terms of the contract were disclosed, but Livings is the second former McNeese football player this year to sign with a CFL team, joining wide receiver Kent Shelby who signed with the Toronto Argonauts in January.
Livings said the Roughriders reached out to him in January and claimed his rights, which meant that if he wasn't drafted or signed by an NFL team, that Saskatchewan would own his rights. The connection was made by Kerry Joseph, a former McNeese quarterback and assistant coach as well as former Saskatchewan quarterback. The Roughriders offered Livings a contract two weeks ago, and he signed it earlier this week, he said.
"Congratulations to a great player and a great young man," Joseph said of Livings in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. "Welcome to Riderville my man."
After a senior campaign that saw Livings earn 2019 Southland Conference Defensive Player thanks to a 52-tackle (12 for loss) and 9.5-sack season, he had hoped to prove himself worthy of an NFL roster spot with McNeese's pro day and working out for teams. But the COVID-19 outbreak put a halt to those plans.
Still, Livings said he's happy to have a team to go.
"Man, it feels good," Livings said. "It's a big sigh of relief because I've been playing football my whole life, just like me and every other guy who was a senior this year and had intentions of playing football somewhere. Just to be able to have that opportunity to play football again, when it was uncertain, it's a big blessing, and it's favor over my life."
There's another McNeese connection for Livings when he goes to Saskatchewan: Ben Olson, who spent last season as the Cowboys' defensive line coach, was hired for the same position with the Roughriders in March. Under Olson's tutelage, Livings finished third in the SLC in sacks (9.5) and sacks per game (0.79).
Livings definitely sounded thankful when recognizing some of the past and current McNeese-to-Saskatchewan connections on the way to his first professional football contract.
"The situation with coach Olson, he just so happened to get hired (by the Roughriders)," Livings said. "Coach Joseph, who is in the Hall of Fame over there, he coached me, he had good things to say about me.
"It's just favor over my life because it's a lot of guys in my position right now who have to get into the real world now because they didn't get the opportunity to play. So for me to get the opportunity to play, I have favor and grace over my life right now."
Despite a college career that saw plenty of adversity and injuries, Livings finished his time at McNeese second in program history in quarterback sacks with 30.
He now looks at this professional opportunity and, along with Shelby in Toronto and Diontae Spencer with the NFL's Denver Broncos, wants to give current and future McNeese football players the hope that they too can play professional football if they work hard and produce quality football.
"At first, it didn't seem impossible to go to the league out of McNeese back in the old days, because things were different," Livings said. "But now, everybody is going to big schools to get offers. It gives hope to the young guys, (if) C Liv and Kent could go to the CFL, well then it's not impossible for me to make it to the league from McNeese.
"Diontae Spencer paved the way, he gave us the blueprint, just by watching how he worked. It's all about giving hope to the next generation."
Along with McNeese, Livings said he wanted to make sure he didn't forget his hometown of Lake Charles.
"That's just what I want to do for my city too," he said. "I only had one offer coming out of high school, and that was McNeese. I made do with (that), God gave me that. I had my struggles, but God just kept me through college, and I felt like it was God's plan for me to stay here at McNeese."
According to a recent CFL news release, the earliest that the league could start games is September. Livings said if facilities open for players to go to, he could go up as early as the end of June or start of July. But at the moment, that is still up in the air because of COVID-19.
But what is certain is that Livings will soon enough be a professional football player.