For someone who apologizes for his "rusty" English, Gatineau's Matthieu Proulx aptly summed up the feelings of 44 CFL prospects yesterday. "I'm selling myself," said the 6-foot-1, 210-lb.University of Laval defensive back. "And this is a big interview."
"This" is what's becoming an annual evaluation camp in Ottawa for CFL wannabes, only this time it will be held at the Superdome in Gloucester rather than under the inflatable winter roof at Frank Clair Stadium. Each CFL team will be represented by talent evaluators, watching the various strength, speed and agility tests.
"You've got to approach this with confidence," said Proulx, who didn't play football until joining the Gloucester Dukes at age 18. "You're here with the best players in Canada, and if you don't think you're fit to be here, you should stay at home."
Among the participants is Les Mullings, a brick-house-like, 6-foot-1, 228-lb. running back from St. Mary's whose film has impressed Renegade coach and GM Joe Paopao. It figures Mullings will almost certainly be a first-round draft pick, if only that Ottawa has two of them (second and fifth overall) and currently has no fullbacks on its depth chart.
Mullings, the Atlantic conference MVP in 2003, is a tailback who'd line up anywhere for a chance to pull on a CFL jersey.
"I'm trying to break the barrier," he said of the stigma that only Americans are worthy of featured-back status in the CFL. "I'm trying to prove I'm not a fullback. That I've got wheels and I can catch the ball and I can block ... I'd love to play receiver. Really, I just want to show them I'm a football player. I just hope I have the chance."
Two Gee-Gees are at this combine feeling likewise -- wide receiver Ken Branco and defensive lineman Adrian Baird.
"I don't care what round I'm picked ... if I'm the last pick overall, it doesn't matter," said Branco, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Montreal who mentions "route running" among his best assets. "It's just honour enough to be invited here."
Baird, a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder, made the Gee-Gees as a walk-on at the receiver position. It wasn't long before he moved to the other side of the ball, however.
"I have a little bit of a mean streak, so they figured defence was the way to go," said the Toronto native. "I like to hit."