For most graduating varsity athletes, this time of year is often spent preparing for life without their sport of choice. But for some, it’s spent preparing for a career as a professional athlete.
Over the past week, the CFL held its yearly regional and national combines to showcase the talent of the best football players from around Canada. Three senior Queen’s football
players—Marquis Richards, Ejaz Causer, and Chris Osei-Kusi—were some of the select few in the country chosen to participate.
Split into two tiers, the CFL combine consists of three regional exhibitions and one national showcase. The regional competitions are held first, and the national outing takes place after the CFL chooses the athletes they wish to see more of, depending on their performance at regionals.
Out of the three Queen’s attendees, Osei-Kusi was the sole candidate who advanced to the national stage.
At each combine, players are assessed on their physical capabilities in events such as the bench press, vertical jump, and the 40-yard dash. After that, they strap on their gear and run a series of drills related to their respective playing positions.
For Richards—who played running back for the Gaels in each of his four years at Queen’s—competing at the combine came with both excitement and disbelief.
“It’s just crazy that this dream is coming to fruition,” Richards told The Journal. “When I went home [to attend the combine], I actually found a playing card from when I was in football at age 10. Under career aspirations, I put: ‘Professional Athlete.’”
When asked about his mindset before the Ontario regional combine, Richards didn’t shy away from the fact that he felt jitters.
“I tend to get in my head, so leading up to the event I was pretty nervous,” he said. “But after about 10 to 15 minutes, the nerves cooled down, and it was just like another day of playing some football.”
Richards added the combine was also a lesson in professionalism.
“Being a pro is a lot more than just being able to play football. It’s about how you carry yourself, and how you interact with others,” Richards said. “You have to go into things [like the combine] with a pro mindset, and not just how well you can play in mind.”
The second of the three Queen’s players to travel to the combine, Ejaz Causer, shared similar sentiments about the day.
“It just feels good to be recognized as one of the better players in the country,” he said. “Coming into first year, you don’t really know what to expect. You start at the bottom, and you have to work, work, work, your way up.”
Causer excelled in the testing phase, placing within the top 20 of each event—most notably finishing fifth and seventh in vertical jump and broad jump. He was also able to set a new personal record on the bench press with 16 reps. “When I did that, I was over the moon,” he said.
Reflecting on the experience, Causer noted that being invited to the Combine was an affirmation of his talent and dedication to the sport.
Finally, wide-receiver Chris Osei-Kusi represented Queen’s at the national combine, where he ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any player at any combine this year.
“Right before I ran, another wide receiver had set the record at 4.49,” Osei-Kusi told The Journal. “So, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to beat this guy, I’ve got to beat this guy.’”
Osei-Kusi proceeded to run the 40 in 4.47 seconds.
While being projected to go in the early rounds of the CFL draft is humbling, Osei-Kusi’s not one to be caught up in the moment and said he’s ready to keep working at his craft.
“It’s mind blowing, it really is,” he said of the prospect of being drafted. “At the same time, though, this is something you’ve been working at for a long time, and you’re kind of ready to jump that bridge and start
CFL Combine, Ejaz Causer, Football, Marquis Richards
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