ORONO, Maine — There was a familiar face roaming around the football offices at the University of Maine this week.
Former Black Bears linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga was enjoying a little time off from the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, who don’t play again until Sept. 30.
Edmonton won its first seven games but has dropped its last five, including a 34-26 decision to the Toronto Argonauts last Saturday.
Tshimanga, who was selected in the third round of the CFL draft in May by Edmonton and was the 22nd overall pick, is the team’s seventh-leading tackler with 26. He is second on the team in special teams tackles with 11 and third in sacks with three. He also has forced a fumble.
Tshimanga is one of four former Black Bears in the CFL. The others are Ottawa backup quarterback Dan Collins and defensive back Sherrod Baltimore and Hamilton wide receiver Damarr Aultman.
“I’ve been happy and the coaches have been happy with me,” Tshimanga said. “Obviously, you always want to do better. It has been a lot of learning and (gaining) experience. It’s been fun.”
He said the game is quicker than it was in college and he has had to make the transition.
“Your reaction time has to be a little faster, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well so far,” Tshimanga, who plays on all the special teams and started several games at linebacker because of a rash of injuries sustained by the Eskimos, said.
He said he has surprised himself with his promising start. “I didn’t know what to expect. But I know what I can do and I’m getting better,” he said.
There are some significant differences between the CFL and the NFL.
CFL fields are 10 yards longer (110 yards compared to 100) and 15 yards wider (65 compared to 50). You have three downs in which to pick up 10 yards and a first down as compared to four in the NFL.
In the CFL, the running backs and wide receivers can be moving forward before the snap as long as they don’t cross the line of scrimmage. Only the quarterback and the offensive linemen must be set when the ball is snapped. In the NFL, only one back or wide receiver can be in motion at the time the ball is snapped and they can’t be moving forward.
“It took me a week and a half to two weeks in training camp to adjust to the motion and stuff and the receivers. But, after a while, it just comes natural,” said Tshimanga, who is from Montreal. “Once you start playing, it’s the same. You don’t even notice the differences. Football is football.”
He said he enjoys living in Edmonton, which has 932,546 residents based on the 2016 census while Montreal has 1.7 million.
“I love Edmonton. It’s just a little different than Montreal,” Tshimanga, who signed a two-year contract with the Eskimos, said.
He said it was important for him to establish himself as a good special-teams player.
“Just to get on the field on defense you have to play good special teams football,” the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Tshimanga, a three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association first team selection who made 347 career tackles at UMaine, said.
Among other former Black Bears in the CFL, Baltimore has 30 tackles for the Redblacks and Aultman has seven receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns in five games for the Tiger-Cats. He has also returned 12 punts for 133 yards (11.1 yards per return) and 10 kickoffs for 153 yards (15.3 ypr).
Meanwhile, former Black Bear All-American defensive lineman Pat Ricard is the fullback for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens when they use a fullback and he is also the backup nose tackle. He has one tackle through two games.