The first day at the East-West Bowl in Quebec City was taxing on the prospects.
This was the itinerary: Get up early after travelling from all over the country, be as fast, strong, quick, agile and explosive as possible at 8:30 a.m. ET (5:30 a.m. PT for those from the West coast) for the combine events, grab some lunch, jump into meetings where schemes were installed and hit the field for a two-plus hour practice in helmets and shoulder pads, eat dinner and finally meet again. Oh, and every move is being scrutinized by scouts.
St. Francis Xavier receiver Kaion Julien-Grant was buzzing on day one after he put on a display of elite speed. Julien-Grant burned a 4.37-second hand-timed 40-yard sprint on one CFL scouts’ watch while others had him at 4.38 and in the low 4.40-range. Either way, he was the fastest among all prospects in Quebec City.
The X-Men pass catcher was a first-team All-Canadian in 2017 catching 31 balls for 572 yards and eight touchdowns.
Julien-Grant was a two-sport star coming out of St. Michael’s College in Toronto. He was a key part of the Kerry Blues Ontario provincial basketball championship team as a senior and turned down scholarship offers to play both football and basketball in the NCAA. That fast-twitch, explosive ability is evident from Julien-Grant’s time on the court.
Father Karim played defensive end for Acadia University and was drafted in the second-round by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2001. He spent a season with the Atlanta Falcons, then came back to Canada, suiting up for the Ticats and Alouettes for three seasons.
Julien-Grant took the fastest man title – the receiver group as a whole had lots of speed – and below are the other top athletes in each event. For full results bang it here.
Shai Ross, receiver, Manitoba – 39.5 inches
Shai Ross, receiver, Manitoba – 10 feet, 11 inches
Eric Starczala, offensive line, Guelph – 27 reps
Kalem Beaver, receiver, Ottawa – 4.08 seconds
Mathieu Betts, defensive line, Laval – 6.56 seconds
The six-foot-two, 250-pound Betts is smooth, evidenced by his three-cone time. Betts was the top rookie in USports football in 2015 and the last two seasons he’s been named the Most Outstanding Down Lineman – despite seeing constant double teams – and had 5.5 sacks and a team-best six pass break-ups in 2017. That’s why Betts draws lots of attention from local French media.
Every single CFL team had at least one representative in attendance while the Alouettes’ Kavis Reed was the lone general manager – Montreal is the closest city with a CFL franchise.
(Photo credit: Mathieu Belanger)
That’s former CFL receiver Kamau Peterson alongside Reed and there is lots of CFL flavour in Quebec City. Bombers’ coach Buck Pierce made the trip to work with the quarterbacks, including Michael O’Connor – another highly-touted prospect.
The University of British Columbia pivot had his appendix removed two weeks ago but it was hard to tell given how well he threw the ball with on the first day. On the first one-on-one rep, O’Connor spotted a perfect fade ball to Thunderbird teammate Trivel Pinto and the athletic receiver made the over-the-shoulder grab with ease.
Even after a long day, O’Connor took extra time to work on his timing down post-practice.