If it weren’t for people such as Duane Forde and Mike Gough, some of Canada’s top gridiron prospects would go unnoticed.
Even in today’s world of social media and instant access, linemen on either side of scrimmage, skilled players or cover guys remain unknown, a gap folks such as Forde and Gough hope to address.
Their method is to stage the National Invitational Combine, a day-long event held at U of T’s bubble in downtown Toronto, located a deep pass from the CFL’s three day-long evaluation camp that brings together the top draft prospects.
“My feeling is that there are legitimate prospects who fall through the cracks just because they don’t get as much exposure,’’ said Forde, a former player and current football analyst with TSN.
And he’s right.
Every year, roughly 800 players are eligible for the CFL draft.
This year, the league has invited 59 players to it evaluation.
In Forde’s scouting model, he drew 90 players for the inaugural showcase, 120 last year and about 140 to Friday’s gathering, where all eight CFL teams attended, whether it was general managers, positional coaches, head coaches or scouts.
“Kids need more exposure and scouts need more of an opportunity to see them,’’ added Forde.
It’s why such great people such as former CFLer and team executive Miles Gorrell was lending his expertise for the second time, serving as the offensive line coach.
It’s why another great guy such as Acadia head coach Jeff Cummins flew in to help his players assimilate to the pro-like atmosphere.
And for a prospect such as Kelly Branton, it was a chance to strut his stuff.
Branton played junior football, but never went to college.
He turned to power lifting and is Canada’s reigning champion, but he’s intent on returning to his gridiron roots, a path that brought him to the U of T on Friday.
Forde and Gough have no sponsors but through U of T they didn’t have to worry about providing equipment.