May 4, 2010

Pair of Mustangs ready to ride into CFL

Arden Zwelling

They had to wait until the bitter end, but two of the three draft eligible Western Mustangs were finally drafted in the sixth and final round of the CFL draft on Sunday afternoon.

Linebacker Conor Elliott was drafted 44th overall by the Toronto Argonauts, while defensive lineman Christopher Greaves followed directly after, selected 45th overall by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

It was the third year in a row the Mustangs have had two players selected in the CFL’s entry draft. Offensive lineman Josh Buttrill was eligible to be drafted, but was not chosen on Sunday. He will now have an opportunity to sign a free agent deal with any of the CFL’s eight teams.

Elliott joins an Argonauts franchise that has undergone a drastic winter rebuild, revamping both their offence and defence through trades, free agent signings and the draft where they selected nine players — more than any other team.

“It’s unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” Elliot said after being drafted on Sunday. “I’m excited and I’m nervous. I don’t really know what to expect. I just want to go in there with my head up and run with it.”

Elliott was second on the Mustangs in the 2009 regular season with 30.5 tackles, adding 3 interceptions 2 forced fumbles as well. His strong play continued into the playoffs, where he recorded 14 tackles and an interception in 3 games.

Elliott was also cultivated by the Argonauts for his special teams play. He was the only long snapper invited to the CFL’s Evaluation Camp in Toronto in March where he was watched closely by Argonauts special teams coordinator Mike O’Shea.

“I feel like that was a big part of the Argos drafting me,” Elliott said. “[The Argos] said I looked good and that they really needed someone who could come in and step up on special teams.”

Much like his teammate Elliott, Greaves is joining a rebuilding franchise in Winnipeg. After finishing 7-11 last season and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, the Blue Bombers are looking to rebound this season with a new coach in Paul LaPolice and four Canadian university players who they selected in Sunday’s draft.

Greaves played on the defensive line for the Mustangs, but many have speculated that the six-foot-five, 290-pounder has the size and athleticism to make the switch to the offensive line. To his credit, Greaves is not picky about where he plays.

“I don’t really care ¬— as long as I play,” Greaves said bluntly of playing on either side of the ball. “I think I can play defensive tackle fairly well or switch to the offensive line and play well there too. I’m pretty athletic for my size, so I can see myself playing on either line.”

Greaves racked up 23.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks in eight regular season games for the Mustangs in 2009, helping bolster a defensive line that was crippled by season-ending injuries to Scott Fournier and Mike Van Praet.

The Mississauga native said playing under Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall — who coached the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger Cats from 2004-2006 — helped prepare him for the step up to the CFL.

“He’s really in your face. He makes you a tougher player,” Greaves said of Marshall. “You’ve got to make sure you bring it every time — he doesn’t accept anything less than that. He’s a good motivator as well. Hr makes you really want to get better.”

Both Greaves and Elliott will report to their respective training camps in late May or early June. Greaves has one year of athletic eligibility left at Western, while Elliott has three.  If either player does not make their team out of training camp, the team could retain their rights and return them to the Mustangs for the 2010 season.