It was football made in America that partly sidetracked a Dutch-born receiver with family roots in Surinam on his journey to play the three-down game in Canada.
And if that isn’t confusing enough, imagine how it felt at times for Geraldo Boldewijn (above) on his way to securing a roster spot for the B.C. Lions.
The 25-year-old finally has found a home in the CFL, ready for his first legitimate chance to make it as a starter, set to replace Nick Moore in the offence as the Lions battle the Calgary Stampeders Friday (7 p.m., TSN/TSN1040) for first place in the West Division.
For once, he admitted, it finally feels like he is at the right place at the right time.
It’s not always been that way naturally, just like countless others. The football journey of Boldewijn (pronounced Bold-ewine), which began when he decided to leave Amsterdam and included two unrewarding stops in the NFL, reached its most critical juncture while playing collegiately at Boise State.
It was there that Boldewijn got a first-hand taste of the lengths some groups will go in an attempt to maintain political correctness. Twice during his Boise State stay, Boldewijn was labeled by the governing NCAA, suspended for a total of eight games.
One was for what was ruled an improper benefit when he was given the use of a 1990 Toyota Camry with 177,000 miles on the odometer, requiring him to pay $700 to a charity in order to be reinstated. The other was when his billet family in Boise helped him arrange for airfare for a visit back to the Netherlands.
At the time, it should be noted, the Boise State football program brought in a reported $14.5 million annually. But Boldewijn was forced to learn a lesson that years later helped develop a sense of persistence.
“It sucked at the time, but rules are rules I suppose,” he recalled this week. “It was a part of college I wanted to forget but I can laugh about it now. It was crazy. All of a sudden I had to sit for eight games.”
For a foreigner trying to use his 6’4”, 220-pound frame to carve out a football career in a strange country, it was almost enough to make a guy want to change his name.
Indeed, invoking a memory back to the day Cam Wake of the Lions admitted his given name is Derek, their newest receiver admitted he was born Geraldo Hiwat but took his mother’s maiden name in college.
Yet though there is importance that comes from knowing your past what is of immediate focus to the Lions is what Boldewijn can do for them now.
The season-ending loss of Nick Moore to injury is potentially a crippling blow for an offence that has yet to become totally engaged, meaning Boldewijn has his first real chance for success.
Wally Buono let Boldewijn out of his Lions contract late last season when the Baltimore Ravens expressed an interest, but like it has been for countless others it was merely lip service. Same when he spent time in training camp with the Atlanta Falcons, where he became known as Amsterdam when featured in the HBO mini-series, Hard Knocks.
Boldewijn’s size is the source of intrigue for every team who has signed him, but it remains to be seen whether his small playing sample size has him at a point where he fully understands his role in the Lions offence.
The receiver expressed a preference to play the short side in the Jon Jennings-led attack, but the Lions have motioned him through all parts of the field in practice this week.
The good news, however, is that the Lions will likely give Boldewijn some time to develop. The only other receiver currently in camp is Demarius Johnson, a practice roster signing just this week. They may not have any other choice.
“He doesn’t have that experience and knack of knowing how to get open and read zones. That’ll come with time,” Buono suggested on his appearance on TSN1040 this week. “Geraldo is bigger and probably faster than Nick and brings different things to the table.”
To beat Calgary, the Lions not only will need more from receivers Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham to compensate for the loss of experience but a better defensive performance than recent road games with the Stamps.
B.C. has just a single, one-point win in its last five regular season visits to McMahon Stadium, giving up an average of 31 points in four losses. The Lions have been much stronger defensively this year, but a road game against quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell in Calgary becomes another test point for a team that has yet to lose away from home so far.
The Stamps, who didn’t have ex-Lions defensive lineman Zach Minter in their lineup at the time, haven’t forgotten the 20-18 setback they absorbed for their only defeat so far this year in the season opener that set the tone for B.C.’s early success.
Steven Clarke also becomes a starter this week on defence with the season-ending loss of T.J. Lee in the secondary for the Lions. Jeremiah Johnson has been added to the 46-man roster but will be a game-day scratch.