Feats Of Strength: Who dominated the 40 and the bench press?

EDMONTON — Global and National players took control of the bench press and the 40-yard dash, respectively on Thursday, as the CFL Combine presented by New Era got underway at Commonwealth Stadium.

Defensive linemen Max Parkinson (Great Britain) and Blessman Ta’ala (American Samoa) tied for the top performance on the bench, with 29 reps apiece. They were two of four Globals to finish in the top five. Western’s Phillip Grohovac (26 reps) was the only National to finish in the top five of the event.

Receiver/returner Gabriel Appiah-Kubi raced to the top finish in the 40-yard dash with a 4.44-second showing (Note: Appiah-Kubi’s time was verified and updated from an earlier reporting error). It was just a part of a tremendous day for the York Lion. He finished second in the broad jump, with a 10’9 1/4″ finish and ran a 4.2-second shuttle. Guelph receiver/returner Clark Barnes finished second in the 40, in 4.53 seconds.

Appiah-Kubi, a Brampton, Ont. product, was mostly pleased with the results but not surprised.

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Appiah-Kubi’s 4.44-second 40 was 0.10 seconds off of the Combine record (Christian Bender/CFL.ca)

“Yeah. Yeah I did (expect to do that well),” he said, adding that he thought he could still shave some time off of his 40.

Appiah-Kubi knew what to expect on Thursday, thanks in part to the training he’s put in and the success he had earlier in the month at the Invitational Combine at Waterloo. He was one of 12 players selected out of 78 in attendance, giving him a week’s worth of exposure to the CFL’s nine teams.

A big fan of Brandon ‘Speedy’ Banks, Appiah-Kubi wants to use the rest of the week to show the teams that he’s more than a blazing fast 40.

“I feel like I’ve got the speed just like he does,” he said. “I was a big fan of his growing up.”

On the other end of the scales and the football spectrum, Parkinson and Ta’ala were both happy with their combine-leading showing on the bench on Thursday morning. Both said they felt they could have broken the 30-rep mark, but know they have a lot of time in front of them still to impress teams.

Ta’ala’s 29 reps tied for the best at the combine and he hopes set the tone for a productive week in Edmonton (Christian Bender/CFL.ca)

For Ta’ala, his results were an improvement on the pro day that he took part in a week ago. A graduate from the University of Hawaii, he’s been looking for his next opportunity in the game for the last year.

“I think I was better by one rep,” he said. “I’ll take it. I could have gone 30, but it is what it is. It was my goal, especially with the bench to come out on top. It was good to see the other guy (Parker) get 29 too. It’s a good thing.”

Just a year-and-a-half into football, Parker was happy to come out on top in the bench, which happened to be a personal best for him. A player with a rugby background, he’s seen the link between the Canadian game and the one he’s familiar with in the U.K. in his prep work for the Combine.

Having taken part in a semi-final playoff game with the University of Western England Bullets before traveling to Canada, the combination of jet lag and the physically taxing nature of the Combine were a challenge for Parkinson. He found a way to rise to that challenge, though.

“Both my thumbs have been sprained, I’ve got pain in my lower back, all of that. That stuff comes with it,” he said. “But you just deal with adversity and you keep moving forward. Hopefully I showed it today.”

Parkinson summed up the sentiment that many of the players felt at the end of the testing. It was an event to compete in on Thursday and to try to win, but Friday and the weekend will mark new battles and new ways to continue to impress teams.

“Hopefully from what’s happened today, it’ll just kind of put me put me onto the radar. I guess in a way, that’s all I can ask. This is what this is for,” he said.

“Obviously at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to football. The testing is great but the football is where you really show who you actually are as a player. For me, (the bench press) was more to show these guys what I’m made of.”

The prospects move into the team practice portion of the week from Friday through Sunday and will have one-on-one drills as well.

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