Three University of Calgary Dinos football players were among the top Canadian professional football prospects strutting their stuff at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport East West Bowl at Western University earlier this month.
In addition to Dinos head coach Blake Nill serving as head coach of the West team, receiver Nathan Coehoorn, running back Matt Walter and offensive lineman Reed Alexander were the Dino presence at the May 8th event. Slotback Anthony Parker was also supposed to join the mix, but was stricken from the roster due to an injury.
Organized with the assistance of the Canadian University Football Coaches Association and the Canadian Football League, the event brought together the top CIS football players for five days of practice, evaluation and events that came to a head in the annual all-star game.
"The game on Saturday was a difficult one. Not only are we playing with teammates we have only been with for three days prior, but there is also a contstant rotation of players so it was difficult to find a rhythm," said Alexander. "On top of all these factors there was a weather factor. The weather we had on Saturday was blowing snow, hail, rain and gail-force winds. We were able to score the lone touchdown of the day. The rest was up to the kickers."
In the end the West fell 9-12 after a failed attempt to send the game into overtime by University of Alberta kicker Hugh O'Neill, who missed from 51 yards out.
However, as Nill pointed out, there was more to this game than winning.
"It's two fold. You go out there and practice, but you aren't going out there to neccesarily to prepare for the game. You are going out there to run drills and stuff so the pro-skills can see it," said Nill. "I try to get the kids a good look. At the same time I'm not going to kill myself worrying about [the loss]. My goal is fully to make sure that the kids get a chance to show what they got."
According to Nill, each university's coach is supposed to nominate up to six players for the team who they feel are "worthy of CFL evaluation."
"The committee that selects the team, they'll try to do their best to put the guys in place that the coaches feel are best, have the best opportunity to look at a CFL career or, you know, compete for a CFL career," said Nill. "Then it's just a matter of mix matching."
Nill feels that the "Calgary kids" bring many assets to the table on a consistent, yearly basis.
"I think overall the Calgary guys that go are generally amongst the top ball players in the country," said Nill, praising their athleticism and skill. "They play in a program that I think the CFL teams are looking for. We run a pro-style offense, the kids workout hard, they're in good shape when they show up. Overall that's what the scouts want to see."
The coaches weren't the only ones excited by the opportunity. Alexander was thrilled about the opportunity to represent his school and participate in the event.
"I met alot of people from different schools all across the country, had a chance for some great coaching and it was a chance to showcase our individual talent to some potential employers in the CFL," said Alexander. "The whole experience was a fantastic opportunity."