TORONTO — Two days stand between us and the 2014 CFL Draft, and you can bet that nerves are at an all-time high among the top prospects.
While some won’t have to wait very long to hear their name called by Commissioner Mark Cohon on Draft day, others will be forced to undergo a rigorous waiting process that could very well end without them being taken.
Current Toronto Argonauts star Andre Durie falls into the latter group, having been passed over by each team in each round of the 2007 Draft.
“It was definitely difficult mentally,” said Durie in a phone interview with CFL.ca.
“I was with all my teammates from York. We had this area where we all sat and kind of just talked, so we we’re watching it online. I just remember not getting picked and feeling very deflated,” he added.
Durie’s situation requires a little bit of context.
During the 2005 season, Durie dislocated his knee and tore all of his ligaments. As if that wasn’t enough, the damage to his knee affected a nerve, leaving him temporarily paralyzed.
Doctors told him he’d never play again.
With the help of his family, friends and teammates, Durie was able to work his way back to a point where he was extended an invitation to the 2007 CFL Combine – at that point known as the annual Evaluation Camp.
His performance wasn’t something you would normally look twice at, but given his well-documented injury, scouts from several teams took notice.
“It’s something I needed in my career. The hardships, and how you overcome them, it’s how strong players are built. I feel I have a strong head and not much can surprise me or shake me from my goal.” – Andre Durie
From the end of the Combine, up until the beginning of May, Durie was in constant contact with both the Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders, who at that time were managed by current Argos GM Jim Barker.
But once Draft day rolled around, he didn’t hear a peep from either squad.
That is, until his phone rang, with news from his agent that Toronto was willing to bring him to training camp as an undrafted free agent.
Though it was a long, arduous, and incredibly difficult experience, Durie is forever fortunate for how everything panned out for him…from start to finish.
“It’s something I needed in my career. The hardships, and how you overcome them, it’s how strong players are built,” he said.
“I feel I have a strong head and not much can surprise me or shake me from my goal.”
In football, as in life, there are peaks and valleys. Durie, now seven seasons, 3,150 receiving yards, 359 rushing yards, 1,655 total return yards and 16 total touchdowns deep into his CFL career, has experienced both.
It’s for that reason alone why he was keen on offering some advice for those who might not hear their names called come Tuesday night.
“Stay focused and stay committed to the sport. It’s not the end of the road. If you keep working hard, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“It’s a difficult sport to play, guys get hurt. But that’s where they look to find guys who are confident, hard working and committed to their passion.”