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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Lancers football signs Red Raider stars Bildfell and Smith




by Greg Layson

University of Windsor Lancers’ Head Football Coach, Jean Paul Circelli, calls local recruiting “really the lifeblood of your program.”

  If that’s the case, he just got his team a transfusion of talent by tapping into Essex District High School.

  Circelli was at the local high school on March 5 to sign a pair of high-profile senior Red Raiders. 

Defensive end, Kage Bildfell, and slotback, Nathan Smith signed their letters of intent to play for the Lancers in the 2024 season.

  Circelli literally loves what he sees when he looks at the pair.

  “Right away, the biggest thing is that they pass the eye test. They have the height, they have the size,” he said, “and you can see that there's a lot of potential there in growth.

  “They've got a great frame, but they clearly can fill out even more. These are guys that can make an impact, but they're going to grow into it.”

  Bildfell, 17, is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, and also played some centre for the Raiders, while Smith, 18, stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 220 pounds.

  Cirelli said Bildfell is “A guy with the kind of length that can make an impact on the defensive line” while Smith “Can really be a difference maker as an inside receiver or tight end.”

  Bildfell, whose father, Kyle, was a WECSSAA all-star and former Lancer, only started playing football in Grade 11, after quitting hockey. His dad taught him some of the ropes.

  “He's a great coach and a great mentor for me, like,” Bildfell said. “He showed me football, in general, and over the past two-years, helped with the switch to football and basketball. He's just been so great in this process.”

  Smith, on the other hand, has been playing the game since grade four. He’s been in love with the team aspect ever since and, after to visits to Windsor, is willing to do whatever Circelli asks of him. 

  “I like that you can't just win by yourself. It's a team sport, a team game, and in order to win, you need a bond,” he said. “And honestly, wherever they want me to play, I’ll play.”

  Both players want to make an immediate impact, but they understand the challenges that are ahead.

  “I just kind of want to become the best version of myself and grow as a football player,” Bildfell said. “Hopefully, I’ll develop from there, getting better as a first-year player, and stronger, and try to get to where those fourth-and-fifth-year players are.”

  Smith acknowledged that “it's going to be a big jump, for sure” from high school to university. 

“But obviously I'm still going to work,” he said.

  Circelli said the pair will likely make their presence known by second year, once they get their feet under them.

  “But, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility they can come in and definitely fight for a spot,” he said.

  It won’t only be the football that gets a little tougher come September. So do the academics. Bildfell plans to study engineering. Smith is looking at human kinetics and criminology.

  “The one thing we talked a lot with our guys is you got to be able to take care of your own business and that means staying organized, being on top of your work, and not procrastinating,” Circelli said. 

  Red Raiders’ Head Coach, Badi Qawwas, said his graduates will be fine.

  “They are tremendous student-athletes, fantastic kids,” he said. “These are the kind of kids you want to build your program around. They’re smart, hard working, and talented. They are very coachable and that's one of the things you want.”

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