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This article was published 8/3/2009 (4654 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TORONTO -- They measured Simon Blaszczak's wingspan and the size of his hands. They weighed him, double-checked his 6-foot-5 height and had him pose in nothing but a pair of shorts.
Canadian Football League scouts then timed him in the 40-yard dash, made notes on how high he could jump and how far. All this before the giant University of Manitoba receiver was put through a series of drills that actually gave a glimpse of his football skills.
Funny thing is, the one thing CFL types did not measure at this weekend's three-day Evaluation Camp -- and, granted, it's not really a quantifiable talent -- might just be Blaszczak's best attribute: his grounded sense of perspective and maturity.
"This is it, this is what I've been dreaming about ever since my best friend introduced me to football and I fell in love with the sport," said Blaszczak after Sunday's workout at the University of Toronto. "Now I've put every part of me into football.
"I understand that if it wasn't for some close friends and some coaches over the years and my family members I definitely, 100 per cent, would not be in this position. I owe a lot to my community, to my coaches at an early age, my coaches at the higher levels and my close friends and family that have helped get me here."
Getting here, potentially on the cusp of a career as a pro player, has been anything but a straight line free of potholes for Blaszczak. The product of St. John's High School and the Winnipeg Rifles -- before the last three years with the Bisons -- comes from a tough neighbourhood in Winnipeg's North End.
"I grew up on Alfred Avenue and Aikins Street," Blaszczak said. "It's kind of the ghetto of the North End. But I'm proud of where I came from and I wouldn't change that at all. But I know what it's like for underprivileged kids who don't have another option instead of being on the street getting into trouble. I was fortunate enough to steer clear of that every step of the way. If I get a chance, hopefully going to the next level will give me an opportunity to give back to my community.
"If you can reach one kid, if one kid comes up to you and says, 'I've been watching you over the years and you inspire me to play football' then you made a difference. And that's important for me because I consider myself a very loyal person."
Blaszczak, 25, was a member of the 2007 Bison Vanier Cup champion team, but last year an ankle sprain cost him a chunk of his regular season and, as a result, he had only eight receptions all season. But he still made an impression when it mattered most, as immediately after Sunday's workout he was approached by staff from both the Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions.
Not bad for a guy who, back in 2005, attended the Bombers training camp as a member of the Rifles and was dubbed 'Mini Milt' because he considered Milt Stegall and NFL legend Jerry Rice his two favourite players and football role models.
Blaszczak knows he still has work to do. "I'm a little disappointed because I expected more out of myself this weekend," he said. "But if you want to be great, you have to set your goals high. I did some things well today and I've got to work on some things as well."
Some numbers to top it all off
A look at some of the top performances by the 50 prospects who attended the league's Canadian Draft evaluation camp:
Top bench press (Number of reps of 225 pounds)
1. Dee Sterling, DL, Queen's -- 23
Peter Quinney, RB, Wilfrid Laurier -- 23
Etienne Legare, DL, Laval -- 23
Darcy Brown, WR, St. Mary's -- 23
Chad Cossette, DL, Windsor -- 23
*Top e-camp bench-press result (since stats were kept beginning in 2001) -- 33 -- J.P. Bekasiak (2007, now with Hamilton)
Top vertical jump
1. Jamall Lee, RB, Bishop's -- 44
2. Jim Allin, DB, Queen's -- 37
3. Tamon George, DB, Regina -- 37
*Top e-camp vertical jump result (since 2001) -- 44 -- Lee in 2009
Top broad jump
1. Milos Zivkovic, WR, Simon Fraser -- 10 feet, 4.25 inches
2. Jamall Lee, RB, Bishop's -- 10.275
3. James Yurichuk, LB, Bishop's -- 10.05
*Top e-camp vertical jump result (since 2001) -- 10.10 -- Jason Taylor, DL, UBC (2004)
Top 40-yard sprint
1. Jamall Lee, RB, Bishop's -- 4.39 seconds
2. Matt Carter, WR, Acadia -- 4.50
3. Matt Lambros, WR, Liberty -- 4.53
*Top e-camp 40-yard dash (since 2001): Lee -- 4.39