Josiah St. John used his brain, not brawn, to impress at the CFL Combine.
The six-foot-six, 308-pound offensive tackle from the University of Oklahoma was at the combine but didn’t test with the other 51 participants. That’s because the Ajax, Ont., native participated in the Sooners’ pro day last Wednesday before representatives of all 32 NFL teams.
But St. John, a communications major, spoke with officials from all nine CFL teams leading up to the May 10 draft. He met with four squads Friday and the other five Saturday.
“I think it’s important for us to meet face to face,” St. John said. “I think it’s better to see them and for them to see me and how I am as a person, my personality and mannerisms.”
“The best thing for me to do was to come here and talk to them.”
Teams often use interviews to test a prospect’s football acumen but also sometimes ask strange questions to gauge a player’s response. Earlier this month, an Atlanta Falcons coach asked Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple if he liked men during an interview at the NFL combine, prompting an apology from the organization.
St. John said the questions he answered were mostly football related.
“They asked me about my protections and the philosophies we had at Oklahoma,” he said. “We really just talked about how much I know about the game of football.”
If CFL officials need test results, they need only look at St. John’s pro day performance. He registered 17 reps in the bench press, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.39 seconds, had a 27-inch vertical, broad jump of eight feet 10 inches while running the 20-yard shuttle in 4.76 seconds and three-cone in 8.11 seconds.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats GM Eric Tillman said ideally CFL officials would’ve like to see St. John perform but not doing so won’t dramatically impact in his draft grade.
“This (combine) experience is very revealing but ultimately you always go back to the film,” he said. “Would you rather have him work out here? Yes.”
“But it’s still good to have him here to visit and get to know him but when you get through with all the things…you’re still going to go back to look at the film.”
St. John spent three seasons at Oklahoma, playing the last two after being redshirted. He appeared in seven contests last year, making four starts at right tackle after playing in eight of 13 games in 2014.
In December, the CFL scouting bureau named St. John as the third-ranked prospect for the 2016 draft.
The combine is adding to an already busy off-season for St. John, who’s also working in the classroom so he can graduate in May. And there’s also dealing with the indecision of not knowing what lies ahead for him.
“It’s been crazy,” St. John said with a chuckle. “A lot of people have been poking and prodding me, it’s the most I’ve ever been touched in a while but I shouldn’t really complain.”
“But it’s weird not being a part of a team.”
However unlike other graduating Sooners, St. John’s passport ensures he has football options on both sides of the border.
“Many of my teammates are stressed out not knowing where they’re going,” he said. “It’s really a reassuring feeling knowing my chances are better that I’ll be a part of a team next year.”
St. John says he could play tackle or guard professionally although his preference would be to remain on the edge.
“I’m comfortable at tackle, I’ve been playing there since I went to college,” he said. “I can play the left or right side but if I’m asked to play guard I will definitely do that.”
“I’ll play anywhere.”
St. John believes playing at Oklahoma has prepared him for the pro ranks.
“I think I know what it takes to play at a high level,” he said. “I know what it takes to be in a program that cares about winning.”
“At Oklahoma there’s a lot at stake…it’s very serious, it’s very competitive and that’s something I’ve got used to.”