Saskatchewan's Heenan tops CFL prospects

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:06 PM ET

TORONTO - The bar Ben Heenan has raised for himself pales in comparison to any measuring stick a would-be CFL suitor will affix on this lock of a Canadian prospect.

In the unscientific, unpredictable world of pro scouting, variables such as wing span, bench press, vertical jump do not reflect what’s inside the player’s core.

For Heenan, it’s of little concern what people are whispering inside the corridors of CFL offices throughout the country, what projections are being bandied about, what potential impact he may have on a game that promises to feature Heenan for many years, no matter where he ends up playing.

“The bar I set for myself is pretty high,’’ Heenan said on Saturday as the CFL’s evaluation camp continued at a downtown Toronto hotel. “I expect a lot of myself. It’s not what people say.”

On Sunday, when the league’s three-day inspection of the top prospects for the May draft concludes at U of T’s indoor bubble, Heenan will go toe to toe in an individual setting that’s as raw as any football drill.

The CFL’s scouting bureau has ranked Heenan as the No. 1 prospect for the May 3 selections.

With Saskatchewan holding the first pick, it would make a natural and perfect fit for the Roughriders to go with a native son whose family roots can be traced to Ireland.

“My great grandfather on my father’s side was the one who moved to Saskatchewan,’’ Heenan said.

The Heenan clan would settle in Grand Coulee, which Heenan describes as a 10-minute drive west of Regina, a farming community where everyone knows everyone, where everyone follows the Green Riders, where everyone is hoping Heenan’s path to the pro ranks leads him back to Saskatchewan in the next few months.

Heenan isn’t particular on where he plays under what system when the goal is play at the pro level and play to his potential, which, according to those in the know, has no boundary.

From the moment he stepped on to the field at the U of Saskatchewan, Heenan was a starter on the Huskies offensive line.

In Canadian university football, there aren’t more accomplished programs than the Huskies, a team that has produced some distinguished products, namely Gene Makowsky, who recently retired as a member of the Roughriders, and Scott Flory, who has served as Anthony Calvillo’s insurance in Montreal.

There’s no reason why Heenan won’t follow in the footsteps of his Huskies alumni.

At 6-foot-4, Heenan is about 310 pounds, but he hopes to play at a weight of 320 pounds, ideal when lining up on the line of scrimmage.

There’s strength, as evidenced by Saturday’s 32 reps in the 225-pound bench press, but playing on the offensive line requires a certain degree of athleticism the naked eye does not see, or appreciate.

In football’s vernacular, it’s called playing in space.

As a kid, Heenan played hockey and turned to squash when he enrolled in high school, a sport he continues to enjoy, an activity that demands foot work.

In terms of film work, every CFL team has Heenan’s four-year body of work at the collegiate level.

And every CFL team was represented at the recently held East-West Shrine Bowl held in Florida, an event, for obvious reasons, that plays by U.S. rules.

As expected, Heenan, according to those who were in present, needed time and reps to get used to the nose-to-nose style of line play after playing his entire football life with the one yard off the line of scrimmage.

As time went on, Heenan didn’t look out of place.

CFL scouts are convinced that if a team’s need is on the offensive line, Heenan is the ideal choice to address the position.

In Toronto, Heenan was interviewed by teams Friday night and was scheduled to visit with clubs Saturday evening.

“They’ll try to pump your tires to see how you react,’’ Heenan said of the interview process. “And they’ll also criticize you a bit to see how you take it in stride.”

Strip away the meetings with teams and the various testing and the CFL’s evaluation camp is a job interview.

“When you get here there’s a certain amount of nerves, but just like any other job you put them behind you,’’ Heenan said.

And for Heenan, it’s now about the future and where he’ll call his football home.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

 


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