Bolting out of the blue

Western Mustangs lineman Vaughn Martin was drafted by the San Diego Chargers over the weekend. (Sun...

Western Mustangs lineman Vaughn Martin was drafted by the San Diego Chargers over the weekend. (Sun Media/Ken Wightman)

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The road to the NFL certainly doesn't go through the University of Western Ontario, but now more than ever, Canadian collegiate football is on the map.

The reason we can say that this morning is because of Vaughn Martin, a 6-foot-4, 331-pound Mustangs lineman who defied both his odds and address yesterday when he was made an early fourth-round pick of the San Diego Chargers.

Not only was Martin the first underclassman from a CIS school to get selected in the NFL draft (he still has three years of eligibility left), no product of traditional U.S. football powerhouses Notre Dame and Michigan got the call before him.

"Obviously he played at a lower level of competition than the typical (NCAA school), but our guys loved how he showed flashes of dominance," Chargers director of college scouting, John Spanos, said yesterday.

"He moves like a guy that is smaller. He has tremendous upside and his best football is ahead of him."

The Chargers were one of more than two dozen NFL teams that took a serious look at Martin, who was considered huge on size, skill and strength but raw in technique.

It was certainly a head-scratcher to some when Martin declared himself eligible for the draft earlier this year after just one real dominant season at UWO.

But with enough game film from the Mustangs' Yates Cup winning season, it didn't take long for NFL scouts to take notice -- and soon after start drooling at the physical specimen.

So much so, that by the start of Saturday's draft, Martin had gone from a curiosity to a going concern.

The Chargers didn't want to wait any longer than the 113th pick overall, recognizing that interest in Martin was widespread throughout the league and that he wasn't likely to last until the late rounds.

Getting selected when he did could have huge financial benefits for Martin, who turned 23 this past week.

With a lucrative signing bonus, it is conceivable he could be in line for a seven-figure contract over three seasons.

Spanos hinted that the Bolts will consider moving Martin from defensive end to nose tackle as soon as he gets up to speed with NFL-style football.

"I have a lot to learn as far as technique," Martin said yesterday, recognizing he will need to adapt to the move from three to four-down football. "It might take some patience, but I plan to succeed and I'm a quick learner.

"My quickness helped me with having to play a yard off (the ball in Canada), so playing a yard closer will be nice."

Martin was born in Jamaica before moving to Toronto as a youngster and then on to London where he attended South Secondary School.

Prior to enrolling at Western, Martin played two seasons with the Forest City Thunderbirds of the Central Ontario League and was a member of Team Canada at the 2006 NFL Global Junior Championships in Detroit.

He was heavily recruited by U.S. schools but opted to stay with his hometown Mustangs after being ruled academically ineligible by Michigan State.

Martin was a standout at Western this past season, and in workouts for NFL teams, blew away scouts with his speed and strength over a variety of drills.

"Our northeastern scout went up to Canada for a workout that was attended by multiple teams," Spanos said. "We looked into everything about his background and ability on the field.

"We felt lucky he was still there when we picked because we liked him all along."

Martin's selection is another boon to the Canadian university game as he joins Brandon native Israel Idonije (Chicago Bears) and Alberta's Dan Federkeil (Indianapolis Colts) as CIS grads in the big show.

"When I first talked about the NFL, I didn't want to make a big deal out of it," Martin told Sun Media's Morris Dalla Costa this past week. "A lot of people said: 'NFL, what are you thinking?'

"Now the story is huge."

Just like its main character.


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