As the snow begins to melt, football fans across Canada are rejoicing as this can only mean one thing: football is back.
The 2018 CFL season might be right around the corner but there are still quite a few events leading up to the home openers come June.
Over the past month, several U SPORTS athletes were invited to both regional and national combines to show their skills and athleticism through drills and tests. This year’s CFL national combine took place in Winnipeg as part of Mark’s CFL Week from Mar. 23-25.
All athletes present performed well but there were a select few who stood out above the rest.
Fourth-year UBC offensive lineman, Dakoda Shepley was referred to by CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson as “the clear dominant force at the combine, who really separated himself from the competition.”
But Shepley – who at No.3 was the highest-ranked U SPORTS product in the third and final CFL Scouting Bureau Rankings of the year – doesn’t let others’ opinions define him, good or bad. The Windsor, Ont., native says that he focusses on relaxing and just doing what he’s been training to do for months, without any added pressure.
That’s not really how I operate, if I did (feel pressure to live up to others’ expectations), I would probably lose my mind. I just focus on worrying about what I have control over and dealing with that. Stressing out over stuff that I have no control over is a waste of my time.
“That’s not really how I operate, if I did (feel pressure to live up to others’ expectations), I would probably lose my mind,” says Shepley, who signed as an undrafted NFL free agent with the New York Jets over the weekend. “I just focus on worrying about what I have control over and dealing with that. Stressing out over stuff that I have no control over is a waste of my time.”
Another key player to watch is McMaster wide receiver Daniel Petermann. Often overlooked by the media, Petermann showed scouts that he has what it takes with the fastest 40-metre dash and the best vertical jump, showing not just track speed but field speed as well. The native of Stoney Creek, Ont., says that he had higher hopes but given the circumstances, feels the combine was a success.
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I felt that I’ve been a four-year starter and out of the few receivers in U SPORTS, I’ve been the most productive, but I wasn’t really talked about a whole lot,” says Petermann, ranked No. 17 on the Scouting Bureau April List. “I’ve been more productive than all these guys but they’re not talking about me so I wanted to come and show how athletic I was, so I’m happy about that.”
Other key players to watch in the 2018 CFL draft include brothers Godfrey and Kene Onyeka. Godfrey, a fourth-year defensive back with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, and Kene, a fourth-year defensive end with the Carleton Ravens, both performed well in the national combine and say that having each other there was both helpful and competitive.
“It was incredible! He was my roommate too, so if I ever needed to run something by someone, he was right there,” says Godfrey, who heads into the draft ranked No.10 by the Scouting Bureau, after being the highest-ranked U SPORTS player on the first two lists at No. 4 and No.6 respectively. “We did the exact same drills so we would share tips with each other on what to do and it made the whole experience a lot more fun.”
“I grew up with him so we push each other a lot and it made me want to perform even better than I wanted to originally,” echoes Kene.
The combine provided the opportunity for invited players in their draft year to showcase all of their skills and abilities just prior to the 2018 CFL Draft on May 3. Nine days later, the 2018 U SPORTS Valero East West Bowl gives the next generation of talent with a 2019 draft year to showcase their abilities – the first step in attempting to score an invite to next year’s combine.
I grew up with him so we push each other a lot and it made me want to perform even better than I wanted to originally.
Petermann’s advice for players in this years’ East West bowl?
“It’s more of a baseline and they want to see how you improve from now until the combine next year, so just go out there, have fun and don’t be worried,” he says. “Don’t be stressed out about it because you have your whole senior year.”
“This is something that not many people will ever get to do, so just enjoy the journey and have as much fun as you can while you can and do the best that you can,” agrees Godfrey Onyeka. Because it goes by super quick.”
Emma is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University. She thoroughly enjoys print journalism but has extensive experience in other mediums, and has become increasingly interested in sports since coming to university. She's just beginning to dip her toes in sports writing and is excited to join the U SPORTS team.