After strong showings at the CFL evaluation camp in Toronto earlier this month, five of Queen’s football players are hoping their names will be called at the 2009 CFL Draft on May 2.
OUA lineman of the year Osie Ukwuoma and CIS defensive player of the year Thaine Carter are both ranked in the top 15 CIS prospects by the CFL scouting bureau, with Ukwuoma ranked fifth and Carter 15th. Defensive tackle Dee Sterling, centre Dan Bederman and cornerback and kick returner Jimmy Allin were also invited to the camp.
Ukwuoma, who tied for first in the CIS with 9.5 sacks this season, said the camp was an intimidating atmosphere as most of the CFL teams had head coaches and scouts there to watch the prospects.
“It was pretty tense with everyone there scrutinizing everything you do,” he said. “It was a lot like a job interview. Any job interview, there’s going to be people scrutinizing your behaviour, your credentials and everything, so that’s how we approached it.”
Ukwuoma said the camp was a valuable experience in dealing with pressure.
“It was pretty stressful, but overall it was a lot of fun to see all the players in the country in a different situation,” he said.
The athletes performed a bevy of tests at the three-day camp, including the bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, shuttle run, and 10-, 20- and 40-yard dashes. Ukwuoma said he was happy with his results.
“You always want to have better numbers than you have, but I’m pretty confident that everything I’ve done so far will speak for itself,” he said.
Ukwuoma said he doesn’t think too much about his ranking.
“I don’t really look at that,” he said. “I’ve done everything that I can do, so all I can do now is wait, and waiting’s always the worst part, but I don’t know if any of the rankings really affect my mood at all.”
Ukwuoma said he and the other athletes are staying focused despite the long gap between the end of the season and the CFL draft and maintaining their edge through regular workouts.
“We have our eyes pretty much set on the prize,” he said. “We just keep to the task at hand.”
Ukwuoma said he’s thrilled to have a shot at playing professionally.
“Football’s one of those things where you can only really play for so long, so you have to take it as long as you can,” he said. “I’m really excited to be able to play at the next level.”
Allin said he enjoyed attending the camp.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “They bring in most of the top guys so the testing was really intense and the competition was pretty high, but it was a lot of fun.”
Allin said having so many Queen’s players at the camp helped him adjust to the pressure.
“It made things more comfortable, definitely,” he said. “Those guys did really well too, so that definitely made it easier.”
Allin set an evaluation camp record in the shuttle run with a time of 3.97 seconds. He said that event was one he’d been training hard for.
“We’ve been working on that for a while, so it was good to see that the training paid off,” he said.
Allin said he’s eager to play in the CFL as either a kick returner or a cornerback.
“I’d be interested in doing as much as I could,” he said. “Wherever the team needs me, I want to be able to help out.”
Allin said he plans to try and catch on as a free agent if he isn’t drafted.
“I’m obviously hopeful come draft day, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll hopefully get picked up as a free agent,” he said.
Allin said he’ll remember his time at Queen’s fondly.
“Coming to Queen’s was the best decision I could have made,” he said. “It’s been a great four years.”
Allin said his Queen’s experience will help him prepare for the CFL.
“We take football very seriously here.”