TORONTO - Michael Knill one day might become a successful lawyer.
In 2011, however, he has no problem in getting by on brute strength.
The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Knill had observers at the Canadian Football League’s annual draft evaluation camp buzzing on Saturday morning after he obliterated the camp’s bench-press record with 47 repetitions of 225 pounds.
That put to shame the old record of 40 reps, set a year ago by Mike Montoya.
And to think that Knill was a bit disappointed because he did not reach his goal of 50 reps. No one else among the 55 prospects being tested had more than 30.
“It’s like eating breakfast for me — it just comes naturally,” Knill, who spent the past two years at Wilfrid Laurier, said of his weight-lifting ability.
“I have been working my butt off to get to a specific number and did not quite achieve my goal, but I am happy with the result.”
Had Knill accomplished two more reps before spotter Miles Gorrell had to help, he would have tied the total of 49 set by Stephen Paea of Oregon State at the recent National Football League combine.
Knill’s reps record not only impressed the members of every CFL team’s football operations staff in attendance, but for many, pointed to the bigger picture.
“I think it speaks to the really good job the CIS is doing,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said. “I’ve been in the league 10 years and the athletic level at the evaluation camp has been tremendous, and the strength is getting a lot better.”
Hamilton Tiger-Cats general manager Bob O’Billovich concurred.
“You see better testing in all the areas now,” O’Billovich said. “Before a lot of schools did not do off-season training programs. It’s a good indication our Canadian universities are making more of a concerted effort to try to develop these guys to where they can be better prospects in the CFL.”
Knill’s lifting stunner won’t single-handedly propel him up the CFL draft chart. He will have to demonstrate on Sunday during the individual and group drills at Varsity Centre that he is quick on his feet, though he earned that reputation at Laurier.
Born in Edmonton and raised mostly in Waterloo and Michigan after his family lived in Europe for four years, Knill’s football path included year-long stops at Michigan and Michigan State.
But once his NCAA eligibility was done, he moved on to Laurier and made it clear he was more than just a football player. Taking eight courses in an accelerated program while he played ball, Knill earned his MBA. Coming up, he has an interview with IBM in New York.
“I don’t want to hedge my bets,” Knill said. “I could be walking down the stairs tomorrow, blow out my knee and be done. I have to keep all of my options open.”
But Knill, who projects as a guard or a centre after playing left tackle at Laurier, wants to play football, and though his impressive bench press might get him some NFL attention, the idea of suiting up in the CFL is something that gets him excited.
His family used to have season’s tickets to Tiger-Cats home games.
“We grew up watching the Tiger-Cats, Joe Montford and those guys,” Knill said. “For as long as we lived in Waterloo, we would come down, eat dinner at my grandma’s house, and walk two blocks to the games.
“The CFL is a great league. I’m going to continue training and crisp everything up. Hopefully I will start talking to some teams and we will go from there.”