Leif Thorsen is heading home.

The former Montana Grizzly offensive lineman was selected by the British Columbia Lions in the first round of the Canadian Football League college draft on Wednesday.

Thorsen, who played prep ball in Kalispell, was born in Canada and lived in Courtenay, B.C., until the fourth grade. He was the eighth selection overall. Because he is a non-import he was a hot commodity in the six-round draft which took place in Toronto. CFL teams are allowed to have a limited number of import players.

"I was super excited," Thorsen said. "B.C. was my No. 1 pick. To be able to go back home is cool."

"I knew I was going to be around in there somewhere, but I really wasn't sure," Thorsen added. "That kind of stuff can go a number of ways."

Thorsen said he and his strength and conditioning coach Phil Ryan listened to the draft live on the phone and monitored it on the Internet. Ryan was Montana's offensive line coach in 1997 and 1998.

"We were taking turns listening on the phone and telling each other what was going on," Thorsen said. "Phil looked at me and put his hand up and kind of smiled."

The 6-foot-5, 284-pounder started at right guard for the last three seasons. He was a two-time honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection.

Thorsen attended an evaluation camp in Canada a few weeks ago. He benched pressed 225 pounds 12 times and ran a 20-yard shuttle run in 4.9 seconds.

Saskatchewan selected North Dakota linebacker Scott Schultz with the No. 1 pick. Eastern Washington offensive lineman Luke Fritz was picked by Montreal with the No. 7 pick.

The B.C. Lions finished the 2000 regular season 8-10, but rebounded to win the Grey Cup with a 28-26 win over Montreal.

"The B.C. Lions used to practice in my home town," Thorsen said. "They were the first football team that I had an association with and any loyalty to."

Former Montana Grizzly linebacker Adam Boomer recently signed with a free-agent contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Former Grizzly quarterback Drew Miller said earlier this month that B.C. offered him a contract. Miller has not signed with the Lions.

Reporter Jon Kasper can be reached at 523-5247 or by e-mail at jkasper@missoulian.com.

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