Laval University’s Alex Savard might just have a chance to play tight end in the National Football League.
Antony Auclair made his way from Laval University to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, after making an NFL roster for two seasons, believes Savard can make it.
“He’s definitely a guy that has the size, athleticism, runs fast, really strong, jumps high – he has all the physical qualities to be a tight end in the NFL,” Auclair said.
The former Rouge et Or teammates actually were a quarterback-receiver combo back in 2010 for Team Quebec, with Auclair throwing the passes and Savard serving as one of the targets. Auclair and Savard then spent two seasons together at Laval.
“I knew Antony could make the NFL. He was blocking like nobody else in Canadian university football and ran great routes. He was a complete player,’ Savard said.
Auclair drew 17 NFL teams to his Laval pro day and signed with the Bucs as a priority free agent after the 2017 NFL draft. The 24-year-old played in eight games making two catches for 25 yards while earning his stripes as a blocker during his rookie season. That’s the area where Auclair feels Savard can continue to improve.
“He’s a mean player, he wants to get involved in blocking and that’s the first quality you want to see in a tight end. I told him to trust himself and put in the work to be a good blocker because he has been playing wideout his whole career so far, so he wasn’t blocking defensive linemen and linebackers as much. It’s going to be important for him to block bigger guys on the line for him to be able to get in the NFL,” Auclair said.
“Nowadays tight ends in the NCAA are receivers basically because of the spread offences. If he wants to separate from other tight ends he needs to block well. He’s already a good receiver.”
There was one man crucial to Auclair developing as a blocker: Mathieu Bertrand. The former Laval quarterback who won two Vanier Cups played nine seasons for the Edmonton Eskimos as a fullback, winning a Grey Cup in 2005.
“Coach Bertrand was really important to help me in all the different aspects: blocking in space, blocking on the line. His coaching tips were really good. He made me a good blocker on the line and decent blocker in space. He’s a really good coach who knows his stuff,” Auclair said.
Auclair believes Bertrand can keep developing Savard into a strong blocker but Auclair wants Savard to make his own way to an NFL opportunity.
“Whether it’s going to the East-West Shrine Game or pro day, whatever he has to do to show himself. I want him to be Alex Savard, not me,” Auclair said.
Savard caught 29 balls for 273 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 and possesses pro athleticism. At the 2018 USports East-West Bowl Savard ran a 4.70 40-yard dash, 4.26 shuttle, 6.78 three-cone, jumped 34.5-inches on his vertical and pumped out 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at six-foot-five-and-a-half, 248 pounds. All of those numbers were better than Auclair put up at his pro day. There have already been NFL scouts from three teams – including the New Orleans Saints – travel to Laval in order to see him play in person.
“He will get an NFL look, especially after Auclair made it,” one scout said.
Savard can likely handle the pro heat, literally. He took a year off from football in 2013 to go through firefighting school at the Quebec Institute of Fire Protection in Laval.
“I have the physical qualities but I have to work on my blocking. The progression through the season will be really important to me,” Savard said.
Auclair and Savard communicate regularly, the Bucs tight end has been back in Quebec City for stints training in the off-season and playing basketball with the current Rouge et Or players.
“Antony said that we’re well coached at Laval. The way that we are coached it is almost the same down in the NFL. There is some difference because it’s not the same football, but the way we are coached here in Laval is really good,” Savard said.
“He didn’t see a difference with players who played at NCAA powerhouses like Alabama.”