BROOKINGS-Next week, hundreds of football prospects will begin an odyssey that may take them to the National Football League, but could also lead to an unpredictable whirlwind.
Former South Dakota State University All-American wide receiver Jake Wieneke knows all about that.
Wieneke went from playing out a childhood fantasy with the Minnesota Vikings in training camp last August, to the unemployment line and now the next stop on his journey is Montreal, Quebec, where he is set to report to training camp on May 13 with the Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
"It's definitely been a crazy ride-signing with three different teams-but it's been a lot of fun," Wieneke said. "I had a lot of fun with the Vikings, met a lot of great people and definitely enjoyed every day I was there. ... I signed with the Alouettes and I'm getting ready to go. I'm also getting married soon, so it's an exciting time."
Growing up in Maple Grove, Minnesota, playing for the Vikings was always a dream for Wieneke. After re-writing the SDSU record book with 288 career grabs, 5,157 yards and 59 touchdowns, he finally got the chance as an undrafted free agent.
Wieneke went on to record seven receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in four preseason games in Minnesota, but he was waived during the final round of cuts on Aug. 31. From there, he signed with the Salt Lake Stallions of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football League, but was once again let go before the season began.
"I would have loved to have been on (the Vikings)," Wieneke said. "When I got cut, I just took it in a little bit and reflected and try to embrace that time. My family was there to cry with me and it was time to move on and see what's next."
Wieneke thought he might get another attempt at catching on with an NFL team this spring, but instead, his agent informed him that Montreal was interested in signing him after a 5-13 season that included another chapter in the Johnny Manziel saga.
He has never been to the city and a league-wide roster limit of 20 internationals per team hampers chances for American players in the CFL, but he's excited for the opportunity.
"I was focused on the AAF and trying to get back in the NFL, but I talked to my agent and it was the best option," Wieneke said. "Now I can't wait. It's going to be awesome."
Since his signing, Wieneke has been working out with former University of South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler, who serves as a backup for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
One of the focal points of his training has been adjusting to Canadian football rules, which include a bigger field that is 110 yards long and 65 yards wide, 12 players on each side, motion at the snap and the defense lining up one yard from the typical line of scrimmage.
"I'm getting used to the rules, running some routes with (Streveler) and watching some film," Wieneke said.