first Sikh to play for the CFL
He’s only 25 years old and he’s already made history. Nuvraj Singh Bassi is the first Sikh to play for the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Making his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Bassi was at practice this week after kicking the season off from the bench due to a fractured foot.
The six-foot-six, 300-pound defensive player, orignally from Surrey, has become a community star with fans creating Facebook groups and a forum on Langar Hall, a web portal for young Sikhs.
Appreciative of all the support he’s received, Bassi says he owes much of his success to his family and his faith, both of which taught him the discipline required to ride with the Grey Cup champions.
"Being a Sikh has helped my game on the field," he told the Post.
"As a Sikh there are certain things you’re supposed to do like treat people accordingly. That gives a person discipline."
Bassi has had to incorporate his religion with his passion in more ways than one. As a Sikh, he wears a turban at all times — off and on the field.
Perhaps more difficult though, Bassi says, is undergoing football’s grueling training as a vegetarian.
Bassi never ate meat until last year when he started developing health problems.
Bassi played for the Division One Oregon Ducks while he was enrolled in Oregon University’s businesses and sociology programs.
But before completing the programs, he left the Ducks last spring to sign on as a free agent with the Roughriders.
Bassi says adjusting to CFL regulations from American college rules takes time and he has noticed a few differences off the field too.
"Being Canadian here, a lot of people know about my ethnicity and religion whereas in the States no one had a clue," he says.
Down South, he had to teach his teammates about the various aspects of his faith, from what the turban symbolizes to why he was a vegetarian.
During the past several months, Bassi has slowly been adjusting to life in Regina, where the people are "real nice" and "crazy about their football."
"We have a really good group of guys here," he says.
"The atmosphere is great — everyone is concentrating on winning and having a good time.
And so far, the Roughriders are on point to take another championship home.
For the first time since 1970, they are 4-0 following a 41-33 victory over the Montreal Alouettes last Saturday night.