Sunday, March 21, 2010
Gryphon excellence at CFL E-Camp: Guelph sends largest single-school contingent to Toronto for three-day testing
With Canadian Football League (CFL) scouts and coaches hoping to get a glimpse of the league’s incoming homegrown talent, six members of the Guelph Gryphons put their skills on display at the annual Evaluation Camp on the weekend.
The Gryphons football program sent more athletes to the three-day event than any other university, proving that despite their underachieving 3-5 record during the regular season, the individual talent on the team is among the nation’s best.
Taking part were offensive lineman Ryan Bomben, defensive lineman Grant MacDonald, running back Nick Fitzgibbon, kicker Rob Maver, linebacker Adam Dunk and his brother, quarterback Justin Dunk.
“I set the bar high for myself coming in,” said Fitzgibbon. “I didn’t reach some of those goals, but I did reach others, and overall, I’d say it was a pretty good camp for me.”
Fitzgibbon was one among a group of seven running backs taking part, known for his versatility both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
“On the offensive side of the ball, it helps that I can be a dual threat,” he said. “I feel like I excel coming out of the backfield and catching the ball.”
Having just completed his fourth season as a Gryphon, Fitzgibbon is eligible for both the CFL draft, as well as one more year of university football.
Former Gryphons defensive back Brad Crawford was in the same situation last year. Crawford was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts, let go during training camp, and returned to Guelph for his fifth year of eligibility. After a strong final year, Crawford was given a contract by the Argos just a few months ago and will likely be with the team for the upcoming CFL season.
Fitzgibbon was thoroughly impressed with the level of competition among the running backs at the E-Camp, a group that he has become increasingly familiar with over his football career.
“Since we were younger, we’ve all been to Team Canada [workouts] and East-West bowls,” he said. “We’ve all known each other for a long time.
“We see ourselves working as running backs against everyone else. We encourage each other and we push each other. It was a really talented group.”
After trying out as a receiver in Friday’s National Invitational Combine, Justin Dunk also took part in the E-Camp, this time at quarterback where he replaced injured Western Mustangs’ signal-caller Michael Faulds.
Canadian quarterbacks were arguably the story of the weekend with Dunk, Danny Brannagan from Queen’s and Erik Glavic from the Calgary Dinos all trying to impress league scouts. After both measurable events and activity drills, Dunk felt that his performance was strong.
“I benched about what I expected to, but I wish my 40 [sprint] time was a little bit faster. We all wish that though,” he admitted. “I threw pretty well and I hope that I can look like an athlete and get a shot.
“I hit hands on every [throw], and every ball I threw was caught, except for two,” Dunk continued. “One was dropped and the other was a deep ball that was just a little too far.”
Canadian quarterbacks have been notably absent from CFL rosters for many years, with teams opting for American-trained pivots instead.
“If a Canadian quarterback doesn’t get a chance after seeing how well we all threw today, I don’t know what else needs to happen,” said Dunk, after his drills were completed.
Following the camp, all three quarterbacks received recognition from CFL teams. Dunk was contacted for an interview with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, Glavic was placed on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiating list and most interestingly of all, Brannagan was signed to a three-year deal by the Argos, where he will look to become the first Canadian to start since Larry Jusdanis with Hamilton in 1995.