April 19, 2007

Prospect Profile: J.P. Bekasiak

By Perry Lefko

He comes from the University of Toledo and tips the scales at a solid 300 pounds on his six-foot-six frame. Yes, J.P. Bekasiak is a big man and he has a big future ahead of him.

Bekasiak’s impressive athleticism has garnered the attention of scouts on both sides of the border. There is a possibility the hulking defensive lineman may be selected in the National Football League draft or find himself signed as a free agent. If that doesn’t happen, he will likely be selected first overall in the Canadian Football League draft, May 2. Even if he is drafted by an NFL team or signed as a free agent, he is sure to be selected in the first round of the CFL draft.

“I’m committed to either league,” Bekasiak said. “There’s an obvious attraction for the NFL. It’s on a bigger stage, there’s more money involved, so I’m a little more attracted to that. But coming to the CFL I would definitely have no problem. It really wouldn’t matter what team I would go to as long as I could fit into their scheme and help out.”

Bekasiak has already had a workout with the Green Bay Packers, who fancy him as an offensive lineman, a position he’s never played but will gladly learn if it means earning a chance to play in the NFL.

Bekasiak has been working out since early in the new year with a personal trainer, who has pushed him through drills Monday to Friday, occasionally twice a day, to stay in shape and improve on his speed and strength. It had all been geared toward the drills he had to demonstrate last month, both in a pro day conducted by his school for NFL scouts and closer to home at the Canadian Football League’s TransGlobe Evaluation Camp at the University of Toronto. He showed evidence of his brawn and speed at the CFL’s E-Camp, clocking the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds, which is considered solid for a man of his size. His time of 4.52 seconds in the 20-yard short shuttle also earned him accolades. He totaled 33 reps in the 225-pound bench press, bettering by three the top figure set last year by Adam Braidwood, the muscular defensive lineman of Washington State who was selected first overall in the 2006 CFL Draft.

“I was always strong and fast in whatever I’ve done and working with a personal trainer, he was there to push me,” Bekasiak said.
Bekasiak, who is close to finishing his marketing degree, played both as an interior lineman and outside lineman at Toledo, the position predicated on the down and distance. In rush situations, he played predominantly inside, while in passing situations he was moved to the end in a three-four set. Bekasiak has no preference, feeling he is strong and tough enough to play inside, while playing on the outside gives him more of an ability to play one-on-one.

He is a product of the same program as Nick Kaczur, who was selected in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, with whom he has graduated into a starting offensive tackle. Because he was playing predominantly as an end, Bekasiak squared off only occasionally against Kaczur in practice in the two years they were teammates.

The fact Bekasiak is being looked at an offensive lineman prospect could make him that much more attractive to an NFL team, similar to what happened last year to Dan Federkeil, the University of Calgary defensive lineman who was signed as a free agent by the Indianapolis Colts as an offensive lineman. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound prospect impressed the Colts enough to keep him as a practice roster player and he elevated himself to the developmental roster of the Super Bowl-winning team. Federkeil had some experience as on offensive lineman playing in some short-yardage situations with his university team, but Bekasiak has never lined up with the offence. He’s been told his toughness could work in his favour playing as a guard.

“I would take any opportunity to play at that level,” Bekasiak said. “That would be a foot in the door. It would just be how dedicated and how hard I work, what I would bring to the team of value and hopefully someone would pick me up and keep me. During the workout (with Green Bay) some of the things were really foreign to me and I didn’t feel very good because I’ve never done stuff like that, but according to the scout my agent talked to he thinks I did a good job.”

Born on January 1, 1982 in Edmonton, Alberta, Bekasiak later moved with his family to the small southwestern town of Wingham and now he lives in Windsor. Bekasiak is somewhat of an unpolished football gem. He played only one year of high school football, basically the only sport he hadn’t tried at that point, followed by a summer of junior football and then several football combines in and around Toronto to showcase himself. Toledo was the only Division One school that offered him a scholarship. He has improved his stats in the last two years, finishing with 29 tackles last year, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a half a sack. In his junior year, he had 22 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks.

Perry Lefko is the CFL’s Director of Communications.