The 25-year-old played for the Chomedey Blues and Les Loups Curé-Antoine-Labelle
Although Canadian professional football lost one half of a promising duo of siblings when Kean Harelimana retired from the sport after failing to qualify for the 2021 roster of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, his brother Brian will be carrying forth the torch.
Football runs in the Harelimana family. Originally from the African nation of Rwanda, they became residents of Laval’s Chomedey district around 2004 when the two were grade schoolers after living for a time on Montreal’s West Island.
Brian carries the torch
While the younger Kean Harelimana played lineback for the University of Laval’s Rouge et Or before being drafted earlier this year, he was released from the Ottawa Redblacks roster in late July. According to the Journal de Québec last week, Kean believes his best years are behind him and he has formally retired from the sport.
Brian Harelimana (who also plays lineback) is the more fortunate of the two. The 6’ 2”, 228-lb., 25-year-old was selected earlier this year by the league’s Montreal Alouettes after four seasons with the Carabins at the University of Montreal. There he ranked second on the roster in 2019 with 37 tackles and eight knockdowns.
Laval a football town
During an interview with the Laval News, Brian Harelimana acknowledged that Laval is a real football town, where the sport is played and appreciated by a large base of fans. It was in Laval and in Chomedey where his love of football really started to take off.
“When I first moved from the West Island and came to Laval and started playing football here, there were some good players who went through the Chomedey Blues program,” he said, referring to the storied local football club which has been the breeding ground for a good amount of professional football talent.
Although Brian had started playing football on the West Island, he played for two years (2008-2009) for the Chomedey Blues, following which he joined the high school football team (Les Loups) at École secondaire Curé-Antoine-Labelle in Laval.
Fell in love with football
He recalled the first time he felt a strong emotional connection with the sport. “From the moment I first stepped onto a football field, I fell in love with football,” said Harelimana. “But I would say that when I really decided that football was something I wanted to do with my life was when I got to high school.
“When I got to École secondaire Curé-Antoine-Labelle, it was a powerhouse team at that point and it still is. I was picked up by Les Loups and I wanted to be the best player on the team. And I was surrounded by great coaches who taught me a lot about discipline and work ethics. And ever since I got into that program, I knew football was something I wanted to do with my life.”
Failure and success
Brian is a firm believer in the age-old truth that you learn more from failure than you do from success. Having played on teams that often fell just short of winning a championship, he said he experienced disappointment first-hand.
“In these programs there are a lot of expectations and you want to win a championship with them,” he said. “You know what, for some reason I never had a chance to win a championship for any of these teams. These are things that, at the end of the day as a competitor, you want to end up with a championship, which is more important than anything else.
“But I haven’t had the chance to have that. So, you know what drives me to this day is that I have the chance to play in my hometown with the Alouettes. It would be something very special for me to be able to contribute and help my team get to the Grey Cup.”
A highly versatile player
Over the years culminating with his signing to the Alouettes, Brian Harelimana developed a reputation as a football player with versatility comparable to that of a multi-purpose Swiss Army Knife. Whether it’s pass rushing off the edge or dropping back to play in coverage, Brian is comfortable at all three levels. He explained how he ended up evolving in this direction.
“As I was growing and playing, the game changed,” he said. “At the same time, I came to realize that the more you can do on the field helps your team. So, I gradually added to my game. The more you can help out, the more you are useful to your team. It’s something I would even suggest younger players look into that can help out.”
A future NFL prospect?
Although Brian studied industrial relations in university as an alternate career to football, he feels inclined at this point to pursue the sport professionally, be it on the field or as a coach, trainer and consultant. In the meantime, there has been speculation that Brian Harelimana might be a prospect for NFL recruitment.
“I’m taking things a step at a time,” he said last week regarding this potential development. “Right now, we just finished training camp preparing for our first game. I don’t like to look too much ahead. I do what I have to do, and if I’m good enough, they’ll find me. That’s for sure.”