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April 11, 2017

The Day Obby Khan Became a Winnipegger

Winnipeg Bombers Jermese Jones (57), Obby Khan (60), celebrate Andrae Thurman's (9) touchdown in first quarter CFL action in Winnipeg, Friday, Aug 4, 2006. (CP PHOTO/ John Woods)

Obby Khan had his head down operating his business empire, too busy to notice the arrival of another anniversary.

But it’s one that, given the chance to reminisce, was life changing for the long time Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman.

This week – Wednesday, to be specific – marks the 11th anniversary of the Ottawa Renegades Dispersal Draft and Khan’s first official day as a member of the Blue Bombers.

Just as a refresher, the Renegades were born in 2002, bringing the Canadian Football League back to the nation’s capital for the first time since 1996. But after losing almost $4 million in 2005 and faced with the prospect of losing up to $6 million in 2006, the Renegades suspended operations.

A dispersal draft of their talent was held on April 12th, 2006 with the Bombers selecting Khan, a 6-4, 300-pound offensive lineman and Ottawa product, second overall, just after the Saskatchewan Roughriders grabbed quarterback Kerry Joseph.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Ibrahim Khan (60) smiles to the crowd as he leaves the field after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 25-20 win over the BC Lions afer fourth quarter CFL action on in Winnipeg on Thursday,  July 28, 2011.  (CFL PHOTO - MARIANNE HELM)

“I remember sitting in (owner) Lonie Glieberman’s office after the 2005 season had ended and they wanted to sign me to a five-year extension for a pretty good amount of money,” recalled Khan in a chat this week with bluebombers.com. “We all knew what was happening… there were rumours the team was folding. They fired (head coach) Joe Paopao before the last game. I didn’t want to have an expensive long-term contract in case another team wanted to pick me up.

“And so I said, ‘With all due respect, sir, with so much uncertainty about the franchise in the air I want to test the free agency market.’ Lonie got so pissed off at me. He lost it. He said, in a nutshell, that if I didn’t want to sign there they didn’t want me there and they were taking back the offer.

“It’s funny how things work sometimes. I was a high pick for the Renegades. (No. 2 overall in 2004 CFL Draft). I’m an Ottawa guy and I certainly didn’t know I was going to go so high in the (dispersal) draft. And now Winnipeg’s my hometown.”

The Bombers had eight picks in the Ottawa dispersal draft, with the other selections being:

  • Val St. Germain, OL, 5th overall
  • Brad Banks, QB, 13th overall
  • Hakeem Kashama, DL, 18th overall
  • Cameron Legault, DL, 26th overall
  • Lenard Semajuste, FB, 34th overall
  • Henri Childs, RB, 42nd overall
  • Robert Grant, DB, 50th overall

 

Khan, St. Germain, Banks, Legault and Childs all suited up for the Bombers in 2006, but only Khan remained in 2007. He would suit up from 2006 to 2011 before finishing up with the Calgary Stampeders for a short stint in 2012.

“I remember I was with my family shopping and we were at Old Navy when we got the call I had been drafted by Winnipeg,” Khan recalled. “I didn’t know anything about Winnipeg. It would have been cool to go to Vancouver because I went to SFU (Simon Fraser), but I was super pumped to be going to a football town. I always thought if I was going to build a career for myself after football this was the perfect spot to do it.

“I loved playing Winnipeg and being in the community helped me build my post-playing-days career. It helped being a Bomber and being the only 6-4 300-pound East Indian guy with a beard walking around.”

Khan is now owner of five businesses – two Shawarma Khan restaurants and three Green Carrot Juice Company locations – and has a 4 ½-year-old son, Sufi. He’s ecstatic football is back in Ottawa – ‘same city, same population… it just goes to show you what a good ownership group can do’ – but also looks back at that fateful day 11 years ago as life changing.

He played here. Put down roots here. Was diagnosed and fought through colitis to return to the game here. And he has no plans on leaving.

“I’m so grateful now when I look back at that dispersal draft,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity. I love this city. During my playing years, when I was sick, when I recovered and came back and now into retirement, this city still recognizes and supports me. I would not have had anything like that in any other city in Canada. Guaranteed.”

Obby Khan

Obby Khan at the Shawarma Khan stand at Investors Group Field.


 

Remembering the Renegades dispersal draft…

When: April 12, 2006

First round:

  1. Saskatchewan: Kerry Joseph, QB
  2. Winnipeg: Obby Khan, OL
  3. Saskatchewan: Jason Armstead, WR
  4. Calgary: Cam Yeow, LB
  5. Winnipeg (via Toronto): Val St. Germain, OL
  6. B.C.: Korey Banks, DB
  7. Montreal: Kai Ellis, DE
  8. Edmonton: Anthony Collier, DE

 

Other notable picks:

  • Edmonton selected kicker Shaun Suisham in the second round. A product of Wallaceburg, Ont., Suisham never played a down in the CFL. He spent 2005-06 with the Dallas Cowboys, 2006-09 with the Washington Redskins, 2009 with the Cowboys and 2010-15 with Pittsburgh Steelers. He also had stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams.
  • Former Bomber Markus Howell, who left Winnipeg for Ottawa as a free agent in 2005, was selected by Calgary in the second round.
  • Izzy Idonije, the University of Manitoba product and a third-round draft choice of the Renegades in 2003, was selected by Edmonton in the fifth round. Idonije was another who didn’t play a down in the CFL, but carved out a respected career in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.