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"It still doesn't feel real yet": Former NC A&T football player prepares for the CFL

Justin Cates almost gave up his dreams of playing football at the next level.
Credit: Justin Cates

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — The pandemic has caused many people to struggle in some type of way. For former North Carolina A&T defensive lineman, Justin Cates, his future was uncertain. His football career was slipping away. He got a job at Lowe's in the meantime and even worked at a news station.

"I almost gave up," said Justin Cates, a former North Carolina A&T defensive lineman. "I thought the dream was over."

Those are feelings Cates was experiencing this time last year when he couldn't show scouts his talent. 

Patience led Cates to the Canadian Football League. The Edmonton Football Club sent him a text message back in January asking him if he wanted to play.

For the past few months, Cates has been preparing for his rookie season, training in Goldsboro.

"I usually get up every day 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m. and workout between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.," said Cates.

Cates said the organization continues to make him feel wanted.

"They texted me first and then they called me because they wanted to hear my voice," said Cates. "They're excited. I talked to the general manager twice a month. Everybody is excited. My family is excited. I'm just ready to get on the field."

He'll have to be a little more patient, Cates was supposed to report for camp last week, but the CFL has pushed the season back until August.

"Deep down I know I'm playing football, but I don't know, it still doesn't feel real yet, maybe when that first games comes," said Cates. "I'm loving it though."