TORONTO — Most people would be terrified by the prospect of a three-day job interview. A weekend filled with numerous meetings with teams and interviews with the press to go along with intense scrutiny from dozens of coaches and scouts — but for these CFL hopefuls, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“The ball is in my court now, I just have to deliver,” said Chima Ihekwoaba, defensive lineman from the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. “I’m in control of my future here for the most part so it’s good.”
56 Canadian university prospects descended on downtown Toronto this past weekend for the CFL’s Evaluation Camp presented by Reebok. Canada’s top university football players had the chance to show off for staff from all eight CFL teams and to try to earn a chance to be drafted come May 2nd.
“I just love to play football and it would be an honour to be chosen by any of these teams,” said Concordia University wide receiver Cory Watson. “Wherever I go, I’ll be happy.”
Players can move up draft boards or fall off the map at this pre draft audition. It’s a shot to show people not just what kind of football player you are but what kind of person.
“I’m here to just be humble. I know that I’m not the greatest player ever to play football,” said Queen’s star defensive lineman Shomari Williams, who also played football at the University of Houston for three years before returning to Canada. “I just want to try to perform to the best of my ability,” he said.
Players are evaluated mostly by their play on film but have the chance to make an impression in a drill or event that could last as little as ten seconds.
“With all the pressure, it’s a lot of stress. But it’s a good stress,” said Watson, who caught 52 balls for 821 yards last season for the Stingers.
The camp took place over the entire weekend, beginning with the player’s arrival and team interviews on Friday at the Park Hyatt Toronto.
“Throughout all the meetings I felt like you really started to get a feel for the coaches,” said Concordia linebacker Cory Greenwood. “They just asked me a lot of football questions, going through my responsibilities, stuff like that,” he said.
The main event came on Sunday with the drill portion of the camp, taking place at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. The players thrilled fans and team staff alike as they were put through their paces by CFL coaches in individual drills and one on one’s that showcased each player’s strengths against other top CIS talent.
“All the players are such great competitors here, you have to be ready when your number is called,” said Greenwood.
The weekend produced some outstanding performances and featured the shattering of two CFL E-Camp records. Wilfrid Laurier running back Michael Montoya smashed the previous bench press record of 33 reps of 225 pounds by establishing a new mark of 40. Not to be outdone, Bishops University wideout Steven Turner burnt up the track on Sunday by obliterating Jamall Lee’s record of 4.39 in the 40 yard dash by clocking in at 4.31.