Photo: Universite de Montreal
Both players bring impressive resumes but Michael Brodrique and Jacob Taylor plan to use different skills to catch the attention of the coaching staffs attending the CFL Combine later this month in Edmonton.
Brodrique, of the University of Montreal Carabins, wants to show his ability as a linebacker who uses his speed and power to track down quarterbacks. Taylor, of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, wants to demonstrate his versatility as both a linebacker and defensive back who has even played defensive end.
Both players held steady at their spots — Brodrique at 15 and Taylor at 18 — in the CFL’s Winter Scouting Bureau rankings.
The combine will attract the top 87 National and Global prospects to the Commonwealth Stadium Field House March 22-26. This year’s event will feature a revamped five-day format.
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In seven games with the Golden Bears in 2022, Taylor had 27 tackles, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.
He plans to keep himself busy at the combine.
“I want to show my skills as a linebacker and a defensive back,” said the six-foot-two, 215-pound native of Beaumont, Alta., which is just outside of Edmonton. “I will primarily be showcasing my DB skills and prioritizing those.
“Right after the DBs and wide receivers are done, I’m going to hop in on the drills that I feel are necessary for the linebacker stuff. I’m really excited that I am a big body and I can fill the gap but I also can move like a corner.”
In his seven games last fall, Brodrique combined his blitzing skills with some sure hands. He had 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He also picked off a pass and returned it 65 yards for touchdown in a game against Laval.
“I want to show I can run to the quarterback,” said the six-foot-five, 230-pound native of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, QC. “I also want to show I can run as well as any player on the field and I can cover a lot of ground during passes, on special teams, or any situation in a game.”
Brodrique’s football role model is Patrick Willis, the former San Francisco 49er middle linebacker.
“He was always the GOAT for me,” said Brodrique. “He was huge, fast. He could play the run as well as the pass. He could do it all and that’s what I want to do.”
Taylor has been a kind of Swiss army knife his whole career.
“When I was in high school I was playing safety and got shuffled around to defensive back,” he said. “We were low on linebackers. So, I’ve been bumped around as a defensive athlete.”
This season Taylor played a variety of linebacking spots and even filled in at defensive end in a game against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
“It was really cool,” he said. “I haven’t played defensive line for a while. It was dope to get a little bit of a refresher.”
Taylor hopes to follow in the steps of a couple of his former teammates.
Josiah Schakel played seven games for the Calgary Stampeders last season after being taken 14th overall in the draft. He was the Canada West Outstanding Defensive Player of the year in 2021.
Jayden Dalke played 18 games with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after being taken 54th overall in 2022. In his last season with the Golden Bears he was a Canada West first-team All-Star and a U SPORTS second-team All-Canadian.
“There’s a defensive mindset on our team that we like to set a presence on the field physically,” said Taylor. “I remember the first game I played, Jayden Dalke made a pretty crazy hit and (I said), ‘I’m going to step up my game. I wanted to have a presence on the field that people are scared to be opposing me.’”
Taylor and Dalke played football together since they were five and their families are friends.
Dalke gave Taylor some advice last season.
“He just reassured me that as long as I kept doing what I’m doing, then I’ll be prepared and ready for what’s ahead,” he said.
Brodrique grew up playing football with his brother.
“We started young,” he said. “It was part of me so I never stopped working for it.”
Taylor said having a season of football cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was frustrating but also taught him an important lesson.
“Previous to COVID, some days I’d wake up tired and didn’t want to go to the gym,” he said. “Having all that stripped away really made me realize how much passion I have for the game and how I’m thankful for every time I get out on the field and lace up the boots.”
Taylor and Brodrique both know being able to play special teams will be essential if they are taken in the May 2 CFL draft.
“Special teams for me has always been important,” said Brodrique. “It’s just part of the game and it’s a lot of fun to play.”
Having the combine in Edmonton means family and friends can watch Taylor but he doesn’t feel any extra pressure.
“I’m confident with how hard I’ve been working,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that all I’ve got to do is show up and just have some fun.”