Justin Herdman will report to the Toronto Argonauts with a big chip on his shoulder.
Toronto selected the six-foot-one, 235-pound Simon Fraser linebacker in the seventh round, 54th overall, in Sunday’s CFL draft. While very grateful for the opportunity to play professional football, Herdman felt he should’ve been called much earlier.
He was the fifth linebacker drafted and second by Toronto, which took Laurier’s Nakas Onyeka in the fifth round. He was, however, selected six spots ahead of his twin brother Jordan, also an SFU linebacker who was drafted by the B.C. Lions.
But when rookie camp opens later this month, Justin Herdman will have something to prove.
“There were many linebackers picked ahead of me and that was frustrating,” Herdman said during a telephone interview. “It definitely gives me more ammunition, it’s added more fuel to the fire.
“I’m ready to compete and give 110 per cent and show why I should’ve been the first overall linebacker picked.”
Herdman, a Winnipeg native, accumulated 220 tackles, 33 tackles for a loss, six sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries at Simon Fraser. A three-time GNAC All-Academic team selection, Herdman had 73 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, two fumble recoveries and an interception last season.
Herdman will have some adjustments to make with Toronto. There’s the matter of playing three-down football on a wider, longer field as Simon Fraser competes at the NCAA Division II level.
Herdman won’t have much time to impress as CFL teams only play two exhibition games before starting the regular season. But Herdman’s biggest challenge could be adjusting to life without his brother.
Teammates on the field, the Herdmans are often inseparable off it. They were workout partners in the gym and biomedical physiology majors in the classroom and many times were seen together working at the campus library.
“It’s going to be a new challenge . . . we haven’t been apart for very long,” Herdman said. “But it’s something I feel we can handle and we’re both comfortable with because we’re always going to be in touch as we follow each other’s careers.
“I have to do my best to get involved with the team and the new teammates I’ll be playing beside. I feel like Jordan and I are going to succeed wherever we go.”
That new reality has become evident this off-season as Jordan Herdman played in the Senior Bowl and just finished participating in the Kansas City Chiefs rookie mini-camp. Should the twins begin their pro careers in the CFL, it will be with different teams.
However, the separation won’t be permanent. After football, the Herdmans plan to attend medical school to become radiologists.
Until then, Justin Herdman hopes to continue honouring his father, former CFL player James Reed, while in Toronto.
The Herdmans donned their father’s numbers at SFU. Jordan wore the No. 57 his father had while with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Philadelphia Eagles while Justin had the No. 48 his dad wore while in the USFL.
Canadian linebacker Thomas Miles wore No. 48 with Toronto, but he’s now in Winnipeg after being released this off-season.
“I definitely could find another number but I’m going to try my best to stay with No. 48,” Herdman said.
Regardless of the number on his back, Herdman said Toronto is getting an aggressive linebacker player who’s intent on making things happen on the field.
“I believe they have an aggressive, violent football player who’s going to make plays, who’s going to cause turnovers and get the ball back for the offence,” he said. “Someone who flies around, makes big plays, helps a team win and be successful and someone they can count on to make the big play or the sure tackle.”
That includes on special teams.
“I love playing special teams,” Herdman said. “It’s an opportunity to make more tackles and make more plays.”
After months of uncertainty, Herdman is relieved to know where his football future lies and excited to get started with the Argos.
“Definitely, these last few weeks were pretty stressful,” he said. “I feel like no matter when you got picked, we’re all kind of in the same spot right now.
“For me, I can’t wait. I haven’t played since I don’t know when. It’s been too long.”