The Chicoutimi, Que. native had 33 reps to lead all participants, in an effort that should help his draft stock as May’s CFL Draft draws closer – and also catch the attention of scouts and General Managers.
“I don’t try to think about it because I’m a perfectionist, and I hate finishing second,” Menard said, when asked about his exclusion from the list. “So not being in the top-15, I’m not second, and I’m not even in the top 15 so I’m a little bit pissed off about that.”
“But I try to push this away and not think about it and show all the scouts they’re wrong about me, and that I should be in the top prospects with the other guys.”
Menard showed his fiery demeanor both during and after the weekend’s first major test, and it’s one that should serve him well as the nine CFL teams get their first close look at prospects outside of a game environment.
Montreal Alouettes Defensive Coordinator Noel Thorpe coached Menard back when he was a coach with the University of Montreal Carabins, and has seen the competitive side that others haven’t seen.
“He’s a guy that I think in the locker-room and in the meeting room demands accountability out of himself and his teammates, but he’s a guy that leads by example on the field,” Thorpe said following the bench press.
“I think that when you watch his play, when he’s out on the field, he’s a fiery player – he’s a ‘get after it’ guy.”
To this point, Menard’s path hasn’t been conventional. As his former coach pointed out, he grew up in a small French town in Quebec, eventually playing junior football before winding up with Montreal. There under Thorpe he became an important staple of the Carabins’ defence.
“It’s quite a story with him with his perseverance and hard work,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe coached Menard for two years and has since moved on to the Alouettes, meanwhile in 2013 the powerful lineman placed sixth in the country with eight sacks in eight games. He couldn’t participate in this year’s East-West Bowl while he recovered from shoulder surgery, leaving this weekend his only chance to make one final impression before the draft.
The bench press was an excellent start, but not the only result of this weekend evaluators will consider.
“His bench press is just one piece of everything that we look at,” said Thorpe. “For bench press it’s just a standard measurable.”
Equally important was the second day of testing at the combine, where Menard was given a chance to prove he can play both inside and outside in one-on-one drills – what he can do as a three-technique as well as from the defensive end position, both of which he played in college.
On Sunday he matched up individually against some of the top linemen in the country and wasn’t overmatched, flashing both quickness and strength in beating his man to the quarterback.
The shuttle and three-cone drills meanwhile allowed scouts to evaluate his footwork, his bounce, and his change of direction. He posted a 7.84 in the 3-cone, while in the shuttle he posted a 4.47, ranking him among the best at his position.
Outside of that, his film will tell the biggest story.
“That’s where a big part of the evaluation is,” said Thorpe. “This is a chance for us in a combine to see these kids face to face, get the chance to interview them, get to know them, and get to understand their personality and their character a little bit more.”
Of course, Thorpe has the advantage over other teams of already knowing plenty about his former lineman, having coached him first hand.
“I’ve got maybe a better understanding than some of the other clubs as far as who he is and what he’s all about,” Thorpe, entering his second season as Montreal’s defensive coordinator, continued.
“He’s played in a defensive system that’s very similar to the one we run now, so for him, if he were to get drafted by us, his learning curve wouldn’t be as steep as it would be for others.”
Menard meanwhile isn’t focusing on which team he might be suiting up for starting in May, at least not this weekend. This weekend he was out to prove a point and send an important message to curious onlookers.
“I’m a strong guy, so I’m gonna show them that I can play against the big guys and I can play strong against the big guy,” Menard said after Saturday’s testing. “But I think the scouts don’t think that I’m fast enough to play off the edge, so I’m gonna try to show them that I can play fast.”
“I’m gonna show them that I can play strong and I want to show them that I can play fast too.”