Simon Fraser linebacker Herdman embracing lengthy audition for NFL career

Jordan Herdman is embracing the uncertainty of his football future.

The Simon Fraser middle linebacker will hold his pro day Friday in North Vancouver, B.C. It’s yet another audition for NFL employment for Herdman, who raised eyebrows at last month’s Senior Bowl game in Mobile, Ala., the annual showcase event for many of American college football’s top pro prospects.

The six-foot, 238-pound Herdman will go through the usual paces – vertical leap, broad jump, bench press, cone and linebacker drills – in his workout. But his top priority is performing well in the 40-yard dash.

“My goal is to run a very good time, which for me is between 4.6 and 4.7 (seconds),” said Herdman, whose personal-best effort is 4.8 seconds. “I spent eight weeks training (at Test Sports Club in Martinsville, N.J.) and we worked on combine-specific drills so I expect to do great on my pro day.”

The Senior Bowl kicked off a long and unique job interview for Herdman, a Winnipeg native who’s twice been named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s top defensive player. He and other prospects will be poked, prodded, measured, timed, tested and interviewed repeatedly leading up to the NFL draft April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

“It’s definitely a challenge but one I’m willing to meet head on,” Herdman said. “I embrace (the uncertainty), it’s exciting to know I have a chance to play on a team.

“That’s something I’ve dreamed about for a very long time.”

Herdman was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, becoming the first player in school history to earn the honour. He made the most of it in the Jan. 28 game, delivering a thunderous hit on Jamaal Williams after the BYU running back took a short pass over the middle.

“They threw the pass right in front of me,” Herdman said. “I came up as fast as I could, just playing fast as I usually do, and put a big hit on the running back.

“I was given an opportunity at the Senior Bowl and I think I showed I belong and can make plays at that level. I think the experience helped a lot.”

It certainly helped break the stigma that Canadians who opt to play football on home soil can’t compete with the best in American colleges.

“I think there might be a little stigma there,” Herdman said. “When I go (to U.S.) you can hear the crowd and players and what they say but I think there’s still great talent coming from Canada.”

Mike Mayock, a former Toronto Argonaut who’s the NFL Network’s draft guru, said Herdman showed well in Mobile.

“I liked his movement skills,” Mayock said. “I thought as the week went on he did a better job of covering running backs.

“I wasn’t sure whether he’d be an edge guy or off-the-ball linebacker but I think he’s an off-the-ball linebacker with enough athletic skill to get drafted on the third day.”

Herdman enjoyed a stellar career at Simon Fraser playing with his twin brother Justin, an outside linebacker. Jordan Herdman leaves school holding the conference records for career (428), single-season (165) and single-game (26) tackles.

“Scouts have seen my film and know I can play the game of football really well,” he said. “I want to show them I can perform in drills and put up some really good numbers.

“I’m a very instinctive, smart, aggressive and violent player who can defeat blocks and make strong tackles. I have a knack of getting to the football and I also feel I’m the hardest-working person you’ll ever meet . . . if you give me an opportunity I’ll show how great I can be.”

The Herdmans come by their football prowess honestly. Their father, James Reed, played linebacker for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles (1977), four CFL teams (Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Toronto from 1979-85) as well as the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers and Washington Federals (1984-85).

The Herdmans honour their father by wearing his numbers. Jordan Herdman sports the No. 57 his dad wore with Philadelphia and Winnipeg while Justin dons the No. 48 that Reed had in the now-defunct USFL.

“It’s a reminder of who we’re playing for,” Jordan Herdman said. “He taught us to play the game the right way.”

Herdman will play for any NFL franchise but says the Seattle Seahawks are his favourite team.

“The linebacker I like watching most is (Seattle’s) Bobby Wagner,” Herdman said. “He makes many plays and that resembles my game the most.”

Herdman, who completed his biomedical physiology degree last fall, also wants scouts to know he’s a student of the game in the filmroom.

“That’s very important especially when you get to that level where everyone is fast, everyone is strong,” Herdman said. “When you watch film you study your opponent and find things you can take advantage of, different tendencies that can really make the difference in a game.”

While Herdman is enjoying the process, he’s looking forward to the day when his football future is crystal clear.

“It’s exciting but it’s also a grind,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back to being a football player again.”

– CP

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