March 7, 2024

Seven to watch at the CFL Invitational Combine

Photo courtesy of Western Athletics

There’s a beauty to the CFL’s Invitational Combine.

Every year, we see dozens of on-the-cusp football players take to an indoor field for a gruelling day of testing, measurements and one-on-one drills. Each player that sets foot on that field knows that it could be their last time getting to do so. For the select few that move on — there were 12 last year — they get to put themselves through the football ringer once more on the CFL’s off-season main stage, the CFL Combine presented by New Era.

On Friday, another set of CFL Draft hopefuls will gather at the University of Waterloo at the Feridun Hamdullahpur Field House. They can’t all advance, but here are seven names to watch if you’re wondering who might be able to take advantage of their opportunity and take a step toward hearing their name called on April 30 at the CFL Draft.

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Dawson Merchant | Defensive back | Northwest Oklahoma State 

The six-foot-two, 195-pound Surrey, BC product transferred from Simon Fraser in 2019 and went to the CJFL’s Langley Rams, winning a national championship with the program in 2021 before spending two seasons at Northwest Oklahoma State. In 21 games at the Div II program, he had 51.5 total tackles, an interception and five pass breakups with the Rangers.

Dawson has pro size, knows the Canadian game well and had two productive seasons playing south of the border. At Waterloo, we’ll see how he fits in the Canadian game.

DK Bonhomme | Linebacker | South Alabama

Bonhomme spent the 2023 season at South Alabama University after a three-year run at Indiana University. The six-foot-two, 237-pound linebacker played his high school football at Clearwater International Academy in Florida and was listed as a top-50 prospect as an outside linebacker. He played three games in 2022 for South Alabama, registering six total tackles. Through three years with the Hoosiers, Bonhomme had 14.5 total tackles, with one sack.

Taylor Burns | Offensive line| McMaster

At six-foot-four and 300 pounds, Burns checks a lot of boxes for a player at this time of the year. He’s a decorated o-lineman, who made the 2019 OUA all-rookie team and was an OUA first-team all-star in 2021. In 2023, he was a part of an offensive line that had 2,111 passing yards, 644 rushing yards and gave up 15 sacks; an improvement from the 34 the Marauders allowed in 2022. He also has history and genetics on his side. His father, Darin Burns, spent seven years in the CFL.

Jason Janvier-Messier | Defensive line | York

Injury limited Janvier-Messier to just two games last year with the Lions, but he still managed four tackles, two sacks and incredibly four forced fumbles, along with one recovered in that span. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Beloeil, QC product was an OUA second-team all-star in 2022 (25.5 total tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups) and an OUA all-rookie selection in 2021. Janvier-Messier spent three years at York, after doing CEGEP out of Champlain College Lennoxville.

Marcus Reeb was a three-time second-team all-UMAC selection at Minnesota-Morris (Photo courtesy of Minnesota-Morris athletics)

Marcus Reeb | Quarterback | Minnesota-Morris

To tip the player-to-watch scales back in the direction of the offence, let’s take a look at Reeb, who spent the last four years at Minnesota-Morris and was a three-time second-team all UMAC selection there from 2021-2023.

The Toronto native’s sophomore season in 2021 was his most productive. In 10 games, he threw for 1,919 yards, making 152-272 passes (56 per cent completion rate) with 18 touchdowns to three interceptions, adding 370 rushing yards and six TDs. In 2023, Reeb started all 11 games for the Cougars, making 132-231 passes (57 per cent completion) for seven touchdowns to five interceptions, while running in five more touchdowns on the ground, with 192 rushing yards.

It’s rare to see a quarterback advance out of the Invitational or the regional combine, as it was formerly known, to the national stage for the CFL Combine. The six-foot, 200-pound Reeb has an impressive college resume and will give it a shot.

Richard Aduboffour | Defensive back | Western

Aduboffour comes out of Western heavily decorated, which for a long time has been part and parcel with the experience of suiting up for the Mustangs. The six-foot-three, 205-pound Toronto native was a first-team OUA all-star in 2023 and a second-team OUA all-star in 2022. He won a Mitchell Bowl in 2021 and is a three-time Yates Cup winner, spanning 2021-2023. In eight games last year, Aduboffour had 10.5 total tackles, a pair of interceptions and five pass breakups. He’s a player that will have many eyes on him on Friday.

Anthony Grigg | Wide receiver | Hamilton Hurricanes

Grigg may come into the Invitational under the radar, having spent the 2022 season with the Hurricanes of the CJFL after playing two seasons at the University of Ottawa (2019 and 2021).

The six-foot-one, 180-pound Hamilton product played eight games for the Hurricanes and had 34 catches for 608 yards and four touchdowns in 2022, showing he can produce with an opportunity. Like Burns, Grigg has some family history with the CFL. His father, Andrew, was a Tiger-Cats receiver for eight years and was a two-time East Division All-Star and part of the Ticats’ 1999 Grey Cup-winning squad. On Friday, Anthony Grigg will get another opportunity. We’ll be interested to see what he can do with it.

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