With his heart on his sleeve and the CFL logo shaved onto the side of his head, Alexander Fox showed onlookers this weekend that what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in passion.
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The Bishop’s receiver spent his weekend trying to show scouts, general managers and coaches why he can be a successful receiver in the CFL, despite his five-foot-eight frame. It’s a common plight for many of college football’s top receivers, but Fox believes he has one thing on his side: persistence.
“I think I’m the real deal,” Fox said on Saturday, the first day of testing. “I’ve showcased it with my stats last year, my teammates, my coaches respect me a lot – if you talk to them they’ll tell you who the best receiver is in Canada.”
“We have a lot of great talent in this league in the CIS and here at the draft there are a lot of good receivers also . . . but I think I’m the one that can do better and I’m here to show it.”
He started with the very first test, topping all receivers and putting up 24 reps in the bench press, a respectable number even among linebackers and offensive linemen. A number that seemed to impress everyone but himself.
Fox thought he should have done at least 27.
“I’m very disappointed, but it’s part of the game,” he concluded. “If I compare myself to the other receivers I could be proud of that, but I’m someone that compares myself to myself – I can never be happy with what I do.”
History doesn’t favour Fox, considering the last time a receiver below six feet tall went in the first round was in 2008, when Samuel Giguere joined the Ticats. Even he stands only a shade below at five-foot-11.
Despite the fact that in 2013 he was the first receiver in three years to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards, his type doesn’t seem coveted.
CFL Combine Insider Shamawd Chambers, the most recent receiver to be drafted in the first round, stands at six-three and said smaller receivers like Fox are increasingly difficult to come by.
“When you get a really big guy who can do what the little guy can do, it kind of hurts them a little bit,” Chambers said, adding that sometimes players of smaller stature can also bench more because they have a smaller window.
“But 24 reps, you can’t take that away from him and he looks very confident in what he’s capable of doing,” he continued. “I think he’s going to continue to show that confidence and that he should be here, and I’m excited to see what else he has for us because he looks like he’s going to be a competitor and that’s what you have to be when you get into the league.”
Confidence, Chambers added, remains the underlying key. One of the best receivers in the CFL over the past four years has been Toronto Argonauts’ slotback Chad Owens, who similarly stands at five-eight.
Owens takes a beating game in and game out due to his rambunctious style of play, and his never-say-die attitude on every last touch of the football helped him earn Most Outstanding Player honours in 2012 – the same year he helped lead the Argos to a victory in the 100th Grey Cup.
Fox said he doesn’t like to compare himself to anyone because he wants to earn his own reputation, but if he had to pick one player to model his game after, it would be Owens.
“I model myself against the veterans that are there and obviously there are a lot of things I need to learn,” he said. “Maybe a guy like Chad Owens: he’s got a great heart, he’s very physical, athletic, he wants to break the tackles, he gets the yards after catch, and I think that’s my kind of game.”
|A Mighty Model|
Standing in at five-foot-eight, Bishop's receiver and CFL prospect Alexander Fox says he models himself after Argos star slotback Chad Owens.
Chambers said that if Fox really does want to emulate Owens, he may just be able to defy the odds and take his CIS success to the next level. Most importantly, he’d have to channel the same kind of competitive spirit and determination to break through any obstacle.
“Chad is a unique player in this league, and a lot of the guys who are his size always have a hunch on their back – they’re very, very competitive,” said Chambers.
“If Alexander can bring that to his game, why not?”
“You have to be able to compare yourself to somebody, and I don’t know anyone better to be compared to than Chad Owens.”
In the meantime, Fox will continue to do all he can to show he deserves a shot at the next level. As he showed with the bench, nothing’s ever enough – he is his own greatest competitor.
“I’m not happy with doing better than the next guy, I’ve gotta be doing better than myself,” he said. “If I had another year in the CIS, 1,000 yards would not be enough. I did it this year and it’s not enough – yeah it was the best in the league, but it’s not enough.”
“Now I’m going to the next level so for me it’s to be better every day,” he continued. “Every week when I come in I’ve gotta do this rep better, I’ve gotta make this catch, I’ve gotta do things that I have to in order to upgrade.”
“So I think I’m going to be a player that’s only going to get better with time, and I think I’m a player that’s going to be good right off the bat.”
Fox finished off the weekend with a strong run in the 40 of 4.635, putting him in the upper end of his position this year. Since 2003 the average 40 at receiver is 4.86, while the average of the top 20 per cent is 4.69 – both marks Fox was able to surpass.
His 7.38 in the 3-cone as also among the best at his position, however he failed to record a result in the shuttle.