Colton Nedotiafko is staying close to home.
The five-foot-10, 200-pound running back signed a letter of intent with the University of Manitoba Bisons on March 30 and is committed to playing five years of Canada West football in Winnipeg.
“Words can barley describe it, I’m very excited to be apart of the family and start playing football again,” Nedotiafko said in a series of text messages to The Interlake Spectator. “I can’t wait to go there and be a part of everything they have to offer.
In seven Rural Manitoba Football League regular-season games, he carried the ball 181 times for 1,675 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 10 catches for 127 yards and one major through the air for the Interlake Thunder.
Nedotiafko added 550 yards and three more TDs on the ground in two playoff games, while helping the Thunder finish off an undefeated season with a 42-20 victory over the Swan Valley Tigers in the nine-man high school circuit’s final in Stonewall on Nov. 10.
As a result, the Fraserwood product, who attends Gimli High School, was highly coveted by a bevy of different teams.
The Canadian Junior Football League’s Winnipeg Rifles, Westshore Rebels, Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams were both interested in having him join their respective programs.
The North Dakota-based Mayville State Comets and a university in Minnesota also inquired about bringing Nedotiafko south of the 49th parallel, but ultimately he opted to go with the Bisons.
“I decided to go to the Bisons because of how at home it felt being there,” Nedotiafko said. “The whole complex and stadium is amazing, and there was so much to offer. I felt like family walking through the doors. I decided to literally stay close to home for my first few years to have family and friends close for support.
“This is a very big step in my life and I wanted to be close to home as well.”
The Bisons are holding spring camp later this month, and he expects to be the same bruising back when he straps the pads on.
“I expect to still be the same powerful running back I’ve always been, but I do plan on being versatile and being able to run outside and catch the ball too,” he said. “I’ll have to adapt a bit to the new league. That being said I’ve been spending a lot of time in the weight room getting stronger and faster along with increasing my football IQ by watching film.
“I’ve been working to be even more explosive and increase speed.”
Nedotiafko only played one season of nine-man football, so he doesn’t foresee it being a big adjustment back to the traditional 12-man game, which he played for four years previously.
Nonetheless, he understands there will be challenges playing at the USports level.
“I just have to get used to the new league and levels of competition, along with earning my coaches and teammates’ trust now that i’m a rookie again.”
Nedotiafko is the first Thunder player to go directly to USports football, but in each of the last two years, Interlake had players make the jump to Mayville State.
In 2017, linebacker Austin deLaroque of Warren joined the Comets and last year another linebacker, Joe Rosser of Selkirk, headed to North Dakota.
Thunder head coach Mitch Obach is extremely proud of Nedotiafko.
“He is exceptionally dedicated and has worked hard each and every practice for years to get where he is,” Obach said. “I believe Colton’s dedication to football and commitment to improving all the time could eventually lead to lots of success at the next level.”