University of Alberta head coach Chris Morris knows a thing or two about playing on the offensive line.
Following 15 seasons and 237 games in the CFL, Edmonton put Morris’ name on the Eskimos’ Wall of Honour at Commonwealth Stadium. Morris believes his next protege Carter O’Donnell has all the makings of a National Football League o-lineman.
“God gave him lots: he’s six-six, he’s 300-plus and he moves like a dream. When he moves around, he looks like a linebacker. The kid pitched and finished a triple-A baseball game. He was the heavyweight champion in wrestling two years ahead of his age group, he’s got a serious list of accomplishments, athletically,” Morris told Postmedia reporter Gerry Moddejonge.
“So I think he’s special, I think he’s going to be down there. Again, you’ve got to stay healthy and things have got to go your way, all those sort of things, but he has everything you need to be down there and be down there for a long time. He’s got the gifts, now he just has to make the best of what he’s been given.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Donell’s Alberta pro day was cancelled. It was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 19 inside the Foote Field dome. According to Morris, there were eight NFL teams who had planned to be in attendance and every CFL franchise, which would have totalled 17 pro franchises.
“I don’t think he will be in the CFL. I played in the CFL and I saw tons of American kids come up here and play here, guys that have been in the NFL and had been high draft choices. And, honestly, I’ve never seen someone of his size move like that,” Morris said.
“He’s a star. He’ll play down in the NFL. As long as everything plays out the way I think it will, he’s going to have an opportunity to play down there for a while. He’s a special kind of athlete. It will be great to see him when he gets to a camp and see how he performs there, I think he’s going to be just fine. He’s in a good spot right now, I think.”
O’Donnell was named a first-team USports All-Canadian for his efforts in anchoring the Alberta offensive line in 2019. He helped the Golden Bears average 399 yards of total offence and 5.2 yards per rush. Scouts noticed his talent on film and it earned him an invite to the prestigious East-West Shrine Game.
For more than three decades, at least two Canadian university players have been invited to the annual event in Florida. It features a week of practices in front of NFL and CFL coaches and personnel men followed by a game broadcast on the NFL Network. This year’s contest took place on January 18.
“The good part is, he did have exposure down in that Shrine game. So that’s a great deal for him to get down there to have those NFL scouts see him first-hand,” Morris said.
“And there’s tape of him playing in that game, so they can watch all that and evaluate him. Those are all big things. He was dominant down there. Not just holding his own, not just doing the job, he was dominant.”
The Shrine Game is the oldest United States college football all-star showcase. It has served as an NFL launching point for Canadian players such as tight end Antony Auclair (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), defensive lineman David Onyemata (New Orleans Saints) and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Kansas City Chiefs) in recent years.
“He’s got a few personal invites down to NFL teams. The NFL teams get to pick, like, 20-or-so guys to come down and have individual workouts with them, and I think he had two or three teams that had already confirmed that with him,” Morris said.
“When you start getting invited to those personal workouts, they really mean business. They only have so many of them. So he’s very, very much on the draft list down there, there are teams that are very seriously considering drafting him.”
The NFL has modified plans for its draft, but the event remains scheduled for April 23-25.