THE next generation of Canadian Football League stars had their names spit out on Monday during the league's annual draft of homegrown talent.
Well, meet the next, NEXT generation -- three of whom hail from the University of Manitoba Bisons: running back/returner Anthony Coombs, receiver Andrew Smith and defensive lineman Evan Gill -- who are in London, Ont., this week for the 11th Annual East-West Bowl and could very well have their names called a year from now.
"There's an opportunity next year to get in front of CFL personnel at the evaluation camps, but this is really the first test," Gill said, before leaving for London and a week's worth of practices leading up to Saturday's game. "It's pretty big.
"This is your first chance to make an impression, your first opportunity to work with these guys."
What's the old saying about getting only one chance to make a good first impression? The East-West opportunity is crucial because it helps players confirm their invitation by showing up not just on game film, but live and in person during a week of practices and on game day.
"I would say this is a far better opportunity for the CFL than even the CFL combine with those particular players," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie, who is one of the assistant coaches for the week. "CFL people can spend a day with them, a practice with them... the whole week with them. They can see the good, bad and indifferent, as opposed to having them run through some tests and then they're out in a combine. They're seeing it all -- testing, team, in every phase of a practice or game situation."
To that end, Dobie spoke with Coombs, Gill and Smith about everything from how they dress at the camp to their approach to every drill.
Consider the message received.
"All the guys who are invited to this, everyone knows you can play at this level," said Coombs, a two-time CIS All-Canadian. "You've got to be able to show you can bring a professional attitude with that. I can't wait."
"Anybody can have a highlight tape," added Smith, "but somebody is watching you for an entire week. They can get to know you as a player, your personality and your skill.
"You can't go in there scared and you can't go in like you are the best player there. I like to just keep a level head and do what I do."