Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Great day for Bisons

Five are taken in CFL draft; speaks very highly of U of M program

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Brian Dobie's timing couldn't have been more perfect. There was the University of Manitoba Bisons head coach, out for dinner in Toronto with a few potential recruits Tuesday night when his phone started to blow up over and over again.

And how is this for helping with the sales pitch: Two Bisons were selected in the first round of the CFL Draft, five overall, in one of the biggest days in the program's history. Yes, having running back Anthony Coombs (Toronto Argonauts, third overall), defensive lineman Evan Gill (Hamilton Tiger-Cats, ninth overall) go in the first round, followed by linebacker Thomas Miles (Argos, 33rd overall), receiver Andrew Smith (Montreal Alouettes, 35th overall) and kicker Nick Boyd (Alouettes, 43rd overall) can do a whole lot to get commitments recruits.

"It was neat for these kids," said Dobie late Tuesday night. "The Alouettes are calling me to ask me a couple of questions and then 10 minutes later they draft one of our guys. I told these kids, 'You guys are involved in the draft right now. You're getting the inside scoop.'

"I'm sitting here in a really tough neighbourhood in Toronto and I'm dropping this kid off and he said, 'Coach, that's where I want to be in a few years, where your guys were tonight.' It was kinda neat. Speaking on behalf of our staff and their teammates, we're all really proud of those guys. They represent the program and where it's at right now."

Coombs was part of a crazy first round that saw CFL teams wheeling and dealing as the Argos made a trade with the Edmonton Eskimos to move up to the third spot to grab him. He's seen as versatile running back/receiver along the lines of current Argo Andre Durie.

"I can't even really collect my thoughts right now... I'm trying to let it sink in," said Coombs. "A couple of hours ago I had no idea where I was going. So now I have a direction and more of a purpose in life. I'm enjoying the moment. It's been a special day.

"I talked to them about getting an opportunity at running back and they told me after they drafted me that I'm going to get a really good opportunity to play running back. It's basically in my hands. I just want to help the team win in whichever way I can."

Coombs was the first Bison player taken in the first round since Wes Lysack went fifth overall to the Calgary Stampeders in 2003 and the highest since the Stamps selected Randy Ambrosie second in the 1985 draft. It was also a validation of sorts for the Sturgeon Heights product who, at 5-9, 190, has been hearing for much of his life his size might hold him back.

"I felt I deserved to get picked at three, but the way the experts were talking it seemed like I might have been picked later in the first round or into the second," said Coombs. "I do feel like I'm getting appreciated for my talent and not overlooked because I'm a little bit smaller than average. I feel like I have come a long way in making people avoid thinking about my size and more about what I can do on the field."

The Ticats' selection of Gill meant for the first time in Bison history they had two players taken in the first round. It also quelled the notion a recent quad injury might have dropped the defensive tackle out of the first round.

"I'm happy about it. My goal was to be a first-round pick and I am, so I can't complain," said Gill. "There's a lot of guys who would want to be in my position and so I'm really happy about the opportunity. I was hoping I would be higher and I had information that led me to think I was going to be higher but I'm happy where I am.

"Hamilton feels like a good fit."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2014 C4

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