Evan Gill walked into a Bisons press conference on Monday, stood up straight before the cameras, and the first question he faced was something of a joke.
'I think Anthony Coombs is the most dynamic player in the nation'
"So, the weight room's been open?" said one of the assembled journalists, tongue planted in his cheek.
Gill laughed at the quip: he knows his off-season training in Florida has reshaped his 6-3 frame. Since playing in the American East-West Shrine Game in January -- the first Bison since Israel Idonije to be selected for that one -- the Bisons defensive lineman has added just more than 20 pounds of muscle, much of it in the legs.
For Gill, a CIS standout now getting ready for the CFL combine in Toronto this weekend, it's just about doing whatever it takes. "I feel just as athletic as I did when I went down (to Florida) at 280," said Gill, 21. "I feel more athletic, actually. I feel quicker. Whether I'm 280, whether I'm 300, I'm happy with either as long as I can move."
Now, Gill and Bisons tailback Anthony Coombs have their last big shot before the draft to show CFL scouts how they can roll. In the latest CFL ranking of draft-eligible players, Gill came in sixth overall, and Coombs was ranked ninth. Both have flashy numbers out of eight games last season: Gill racked up 28.5 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for losses and notched three sacks. Coombs turned heads when he blew through 1,696 all-purpose yards, tops in the entire CIS.
Still, the CFL doesn't carry too many Canadian tailbacks, and time will tell how that will impact Coombs' final place in the draft. Count the Bisons' head coach as a fan. "I think Anthony Coombs is the most dynamic player in the nation," Brian Dobie said. "His feet are phenomenally quick, through the roof... there's no-one in the country that has that. I think he'll surprise a lot of people. I expect him to be drafted fairly high, I really do, despite the tag 'Canadian tailback.'"
Meanwhile, the Bisons also unveiled their 2014 home schedule on Monday, and next week they plan to unveil some of their new recruits. The program also announced that quarterback Jordan Yantz, slotback Nic Demski and linebacker Bami Adewale had all been tapped to play in the 12th annual East West Bowl in London, Ont. in May. Dobie will join the Team West coaching staff for that game, which serves as a showcase for 2014 CFL draft-eligible players.
For Yantz, just finished his first campaign with the Bisons, he knows the scouting buzz isn't likely to hover over his position. True, he was a conference all-star last year, and led Canada West in passing with 2,474 yards and in touchdowns with 25. But few Canadian quarterbacks ever battle their way onto CFL rosters, and the none have started since Toronto's Giulio Caravatta took the first snap for the B.C. Lions in October 1996.
For the most part, after a lifetime of development, American pivots are just way ahead. "The odds are really against me, honestly," Yantz said. "I'll chase my dream as long as I can, and that's to be a professional. If that doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. The main goal right now, knowing this is my last go at amateur football... Let's go out with a bang. If I don't end up being a pro, let's be satisfied with winning a Vanier this year."