In many ways, life has come full circle for Justin Cates.
Last March, he was getting ready to attend the NFL’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Combine, but the NFL canceled the HBCU combine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flash forward a year, and Justin Cates has now achieved his dream of becoming a professional football player. In January, he signed a two-year contract with the Edmonton Football team of the Canadian Football League.
“The end of 2020 was crazy because you didn’t know what was going to happen football-wise and in general,” Cates said. “It was a blessing to sign with Edmonton. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just at home watching TV, then I got the phone call, and I was signed with a CFL team.”
However, even though he is now a professional football player, Cates is still working hard.
After spending some time in Mississippi visiting family, the former N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University defensive lineman is back in Goldsboro preparing for the CFL season, which starts in June.
Before heading off to Edmonton in May for the CFL rookie camp, Cates still had plenty of things he wanted to work on.
Cates works out every day at the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex with his former high school coaches Leander Oates and Michael Harper.
“I’m training every day at the complex, and I’m hitting the weight room at Rosewood,” Cates said. “I’ve been doing a bunch of footwork drills, getting my upper and lower body strength up.
“We work on all facets of the game.”
Harper who used to coach Goldsboro High School is now a performance trainer, and Harper said it has been amazing to have a front-row seat to Cate’s journey,
Harper, who also trained the Seattle Seahawks’ Jarren Reid, added Cates always pushes himself to get better on and off the field, and that Cates has the ability and work ethic to join Reid in the NFL possibly.
“We’ve been working together since he 14 years old. He’s accomplished amazing things, winning three national titles at A&T, and now he’s a professional football player in the CFL. I’m very proud of him,” Harper said. “This performance training, so we’re working on everything he needs to work on. From strength and endurance, core stabilization, footwork, speed, flexibility, anything to get him prepared for going up there.
“There’s so much talent here in Wayne County, and I want that talent to be exposed.”
Cates said he is in constant contact with his new coaches, who are impressed with his versatility. He attended Fort Union Military Academy with one of his new teammates, so Cates is ready to make the transition from Goldsboro to Edmonton.
He wants to win CFL defensive player of the year, but just because Cates achieved his dream of becoming a professional football player, he is still focused on turning his biggest dream into a reality.
“I’m trying to get to the NFL, so I’m trying to do my best as soon I get up here,” Cates said.