Blue Bomber Report Record: 5–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bison gets his chance to show football skills to interested CFL eyes

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TORONTO -- All Louie Richardson wanted was one shot, one legit chance to showcase his football skills under the eyes of CFL coaches, GMs and scouts.

So excuse the University of Manitoba Bisons defensive end if he didn't feel a little anxious -- and a complete sense of relief and satisfaction afterward -- when that all came together Friday at the National Invitational Combine here in advance of this weekend's CFL's E-Camp of top draft prospects.

"I was extremely nervous coming into this," said Richardson, fresh from finishing a day of testing and on-field drills at Lamport Stadium and the University of Toronto.

"I had a bad sleep (Thursday night) because it's about being in this moment and knowing that this is it right here. This is my opportunity and it might only come once in my lifetime. This was my chance, maybe my only chance, to come out here and show my stuff against other legitimate draft-eligible players in front of all these coaches and scouts."

The NIC camp, organized by former CFLer/TSN analyst Duane Forde and Mike Gough (he runs a program in Florida that preps players for combines) is in its second year of existence and serves as a perfect lead-in to the CFL E-Camp.

The E-Camp sees all eight league teams submit a list of prospects they'd like to have attend the two days of testing and on-field drills. But that doesn't stop clubs from "hiding" prospects and others from slipping through the cracks.

Examples: Spencer Watt, who ended up starting games at receiver for the Toronto Argonauts last season, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Justin Palardy were not invited to last year's E-Camp but made significant contributions as CFL rookies.

"Spencer Watt is kind of our poster boy," said Forde, who has established himself as THE Canadian Draft guru. "He went in the third round last year and probably should have gone higher. A couple teams probably knew about him but didn't kick up a fuss when he didn't get invited to the evaluation camp because those couple teams probably don't want the other six teams to know. But that doesn't do Spencer Watt any good and that's why we wanted to develop something like this.

"There are a lot of guys here and all they want is to know they had a shot."

The Bombers have done extensive pre-draft research, thanks mostly to former University of Guelph head coach Kyle Walters, now the team's special-teams coach and Canadian Draft co-ordinator.

Walters, along with GM Joe Mack, director of player personnel Ken Moll, head coach Paul LaPolice, assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson and assistant coaches Pat DelMonaco, Tim Burke, Jamie Barresi and Casey Creehan, took in the NIC on Friday and will be watching all the prospects at the E-Camp closely through the weekend.

"Kyle's very well-connected and we'll be well prepared for the draft," LaPolice said. "But when you put your list together, you're going to miss a few guys. (The NIC) gives an opportunity for us to look at players and maybe we can get one or two more further evaluated. That could maybe make the difference in a lower-round pick for somebody or perhaps a free-agent deal."

Richardson was one of three Bisons at the camp, along with cornerback Andrew James, who is from Toronto, and former U of M D-lineman Wyatt Jacobi.

The CFL pays the hotel, airfare and other expenses for those attending the E-Camp, but the NIC is by invitation (some 120 were in attendance Friday), there is a registration fee and players have to cover their own costs.

Late Friday night a CFL official confirmed that Richardson would not get an invite to E-Camp. But he did open some eyes, particularly coming off a season he referred to as "problematic" because of injuries.

The dream doesn't have to end here for Richardson, though. He may be a long shot to be drafted, but could possibly sign a free-agent contract after the draft if he made a good enough with a team.

With two years of eligibility remaining with the Bisons, he could get another shot after his draft year.

"I love the program and I would definitely go back and finish it off," he said. "I love football. I've been playing since I was seven. This is something that's in my blood and I want to do it for as long as I can."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2011 D3

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