Eskimos gear up for draft

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:39 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos will be heading into their most important huddle of the off-season Sunday.

Televised live on TSN from 10 a.m. to noon, the 2010 CFL Draft will not only help determine the course of the team’s future, but also change the lives of the young players fortunate enough to get selected.

But before they have a chance to play the game professionally, draft-eligible Canadian athletes must play a waiting game to see what the future holds.

Even if they had a pretty good idea that they would be picked up, some current Eskimos told www.esks.com that they weren’t sure where they would land.

“I was told that I had the ability to make it to the CFL, but I really had no idea if the teams in the CFL knew who I was,” said offensive lineman Gord Hinse, the Eskimos’ top draft pick a year ago. “I went to the Laval combine and performed well and after that I started getting lots of calls from all the teams in the league.

“So coming to draft day I had an idea that I was going to get drafted, it was only a matter of when.”

He ended up going early in the second round, 11th overall, to his hometown Eskimos.

“I had talked to every team in the CFL, but there were a couple of teams that seemed particularly interested, with the Eskimos being one of them,” Hinse said. “I hoped that Edmonton would draft me, though. I consider myself very lucky to have been drafted by the Eskimos.”

Not everyone gets a chance to play for the team they grew up watching.

“Growing up, I had dreams of playing many sports but once I got into high school my focus quickly turned to football,” said Eskimos linebacker Tim St. Pierre, who is from Hamilton. “I followed the ’Cats closely as a kid and it’s definitely always been a dream of mine to play in the CFL.”

One thing most football players have in common is sharing a dream to play professionally from a young age.

“Since elementary school, I had aspirations of being a professional football player,” said Eskimos wide receiver Andrew Nowacki, who still has the evidence to prove it. “In my eighth-grade yearbook, I wrote that I wanted to do just that.”

But turning the dream into reality is another matter.

“As a kid, just like anybody else, I grew up dreaming of being a professional athlete” said Hinse, who also played university football in his hometown with the U of A Golden Bears.

“But it wasn’t until my first year of university that I realized that it could become a reality.”

“As soon as it occurred to me that I could potentially make it into the CFL, I started to work really hard to give myself the best chance I could to make it to the next level.”

But one question remains until the very end.

“On draft day, I had no idea where I would end up,” St. Pierre said. “It’s a weird feeling knowing you’re about to start your career in a new city but not knowing which one it will be.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Eskimos signed a pair of import defensive linemen — former NFLers Andre Coleman and Larry Birdine.

At six-foot-four and 293 pounds, Coleman spent the past three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, making it off the practice roster for a pair of games last year before being released at the end of the season.

Also a practice squad mainstay, Birdine — who is six-foot-four and 270 pounds — originally signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2007 before joining the Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Stampeders signed veteran non-import offensive lineman Matt Sheridan, who sat out the 2009 season after spending the first eight years of his CFL career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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