Maleek Irons uses popular video games such as Apex Legends, Fortnite and Call of Duty to improve his hand-eye coordination for football while getting his competitive fix away from the field.

“I play video games – a lot of shooting games. I’m trying to be on the leaderboard for top players competitively. I’ve been on a couple top 10 per cent Fortnite players for console, top 500 Apex players for console,” Irons said. “I feel like I have really good hand-eye coordination and, honestly, if I was going to credit it to something, it would be playing video games growing up – 100 per cent.”

Irons has dreams of becoming both a professional gamer and football player, the latter being the current focus. The Chilliwack, B.C. native rushed for a career-high 831 yards and eight touchdowns on 126 carries (6.6 yards-per-carry) and added six catches for 41 yards and one touchdown during his senior season at Ohio in 2018.

Scouts from both sides of the border took notice with more than 20 NFL and CFL teams attending the Bobcats pro day. Irons checked in at six feet even, 216 pounds, running a 4.59 40-yard dash, 4.21 shuttle, 7.20 three-cone, 33.5-inch vertical, nine-foot, 11-inch broad jump and 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

“Irons is a stud,” one CFL scout said. “Big, strong, powerful fast and most importantly productive. It’s rare to see a Canadian back start and perform well at a high NCAA level.”

“The best running back in the CFL class, period,” another talent evaluator said.

After receiving favourable feedback, Irons believes he’ll be in some sort of NFL camp, rookie, mini or main training. Irons has spoken to a majority of CFL teams doing their background fact-finding. If Irons would have been allowed to just come to the CFL combine for interviews, he would’ve been there.

“Yes, 100 per cent. I didn’t do the CFL combine because it was too close to my pro day. I didn’t want my body to be acting or messed up,” Irons said.

Irons was a star coming out of WJ Mouat high school on the West coast, posting a single-season province record 3,204 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns in 2012 and finished with 7,944 yards and 98 touchdowns. Current Montreal Alouettes linebacker Bo Lokombo went to WJ Mouat and earned a scholarship at the University of Oregon, spending time with the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers prior to returning to the CFL.

“It was motivation and nice to have a player that I could look up to that went through the process and was at the same school – more relatable,” Irons said.

Lokombo was the best linebacker in his CFL draft class, but slid due to NFL potential. Irons is the same at his position for 2019 and could drop down the board because there is legitimate NFL interest.

“I do think I’m the best Canadian running back. I’ll be able to bring a special set of skills to whatever team decides to pick me up. I can play special teams and be productive on that, be able to be a productive running back that teams can depend on,” Irons said.

Irons was part of the only all-Canadian backfield in the NCAA last season while the physical runner tries to become the only back from Canada to earn an NFL roster spot for the 2019 season. Command and conquer just like in the video games.

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Justin Dunk is the pre-eminent CFL insider and unabashed supporter of Canadian quarterbacks. He is one of the founders of the new 3DownNation.