About 50 young men will put their future in professional football on the line this weekend at the CFL National Combine.
Regina’s Mitchell Picton, coming off a standout year with the University of Regina Rams, will be one of them.
This season alone, Picton was named a first-team All-Canadian and a Canada West all-star, he set a school record, led Canada West, and finished second in the nation with 58 receptions. He tied a school record and led the country with 11 touchdown catches and led Canada West with 834 receiving yards, good for second in the country.
Even before his season was over Picton fielded calls from CFL teams, and if he tests well, there will be more to come ahead of the CFL Draft.
“Since I was a kid it’s a dream to play pro-football and this is the first step in making that a reality so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
A lot of fun and a lot of pressure.
Players who enter the combine not only have to strut their stuff physically with numerous running, jumping and football drills, but they will sit down with scouts and coaches from the teams and undergo questioning about who they are and their football IQ.
Roughriders linebacker Henoc Muamba went first overall in the 2011 CFL Draft. He said he remembers walking into his interview with Toronto Argonauts with bright lights in his face being peppered with question after question. It’s a lot for someone in their early 20s, but he gets it because in the end, the team is investing money in a football player’s future.
“When you go through the combine you want to become a professional athlete and what that really means is … you start to get paid to play the game that you love,” Muamba said.
“(The teams) have to really do their research and find out really what kind of person you are, what kind of man you will be in the locker room, what are you going to add, what are you going to bring to the table, how can you help them, and that is where they can establish that.”
Of course, the physical doesn’t hurt either, but for most players, that stuff comes easier. Picton, for example, has been working out for the combine since December. He’s confident in what he will be able to show physically, especially in the one-on-one drills.
“You prepare for months so you just have to have it in your head that you know what you’re doing and it’s just a matter of going out there and executing just like you’ve been practicing for months,” Picton said.
That’s the attitude that Taylor Loffler, last year’s Bombers rookie of the year, said was vital to his combine experience.
“You work out every day to get to this point and then you get here you have to do the interviews all the field work it’s all a mental game,” Loffler said.
Picton is currently ranked 20th by the CFL Scouting Bureau, and he’s optimistic about what’s to come after the combine, if and when he gets drafted.
“I’m always pretty confident in my abilities … once I get into a camp I’m just going to go in and do everything I can to make a football team.”
Combine events begin Friday morning at Evraz Place with broad and vertical jumps before breaking until Friday evening. The testing concludes Saturday afternoon with individual and one-on-one drills.