Top five performers from the 2021 CFL Global Combine

German running back Justin Rodney. Photo courtesy: Chris Haas / C-Sportspics / GFL

Call it the underwear Olympics or Christmas in April: Combine season is finally upon us, even if things look a little different than we’re used to.

The CFL released the results of the 2021 Global Combine on Friday — the first of three virtual combines this month — following the completion of their result verification process. The 89 participants posted a wide array of numbers for teams to sort through, with some showing off particularly impressive athleticism.

Chances are you’ve never heard of any of the foreign players making their way to the CFL, but some will turn into meaningful contributors for your team whenever the 2021 season begins.

The four-round Global Draft on Thursday, April 15 will be wildly unpredictable, but Combine results may show us just who those impact players will be. Other top performers might simply be a mirage.

For your sake, I’ve separated the wheat from the chaff of the daunting Combine list. Given the high-calibre of athletes, the list of Global Combine top performers could easily be 20 players long. For you, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Here are the top five performers from the 2021 CFL Global Combine.

Justin Rodney, RB, Germany
Last Team: Frankfurt Universe (GFL)
HT: 5’7 5/8″ / WT: 180 / Age: 25
Bench: 23 / Forty: 4.37 / Broad: 9’11 3/8″ / 3Cone: 6.80 / Shuttle: 4.00

This one is the jaw-dropper.

It’s no surprise that Justin Rodney is an athletic freak — he’s earned his reputation as a three-time finalist in Germany’s version of American Ninja Warrior — but no one was quite expecting this, particularly after much more pedestrian numbers posted at the German Combine a year ago.

The CFL has gone through the effort of verifying the numbers posted based on video submitted to them, but I’m sure this one got triple-checked. Rodney’s 4.37 forty-yard dash would have been faster than any NFL Combine attendee at the running back position last year, as would both his change-of-direction numbers.

The diminutive ball carrier has shown off that type of burst as one of Germany’s top rushers the past few years, but he’s physical too, with 23 reps on the bench cementing his status as an absolute gym rat.

Tomoya Machino, OL, Japan
Last Team: Fujitsu Frontiers (X League)
HT: 6’4 3/4″ / WT: 303 / Age: 24
Bench: 31 / Forty: 5.50 / Broad: 8’11” / 3Cone: 7.67 / Shuttle: 4.63

Big boys rarely get the Combine love they deserve and more than a few people will scroll past Machino’s results absent-mindedly thanks to his pedestrian straight line speed. That is a mistake.

Machino’s 31 reps on the bench tied Belgian defensive tackle Tibo Debaillie for most in the Global Combine and show just how hard he’s been working over the last year, with an astounding 10-rep improvement over the Japanese Combine. That’s bull strong but Machino is more than just a powerlifter.

Hidden behind a middling forty-yard time, Machino has feet that would make any O-Line coach drool. You see it in his change of direction numbers, both of which would be better than what physical freak Tristan Wirfs put up at the NFL Combine last year.

The powerful hips are there as well with an eight-foot, 11-inch broad jump that easily beats his combine counterparts along the offensive line and still doesn’t top his personal best.

Nico Leonard, RB, South Africa
Last Team: DHL Stormers (Rugby)
HT: 5’11 5/8″ / WT: 210 / Age: 23
Bench: 27 / Forty: 4.59 / Broad: 10’2″ / 3Cone: INJ / Shuttle: INJ

Only one rugby convert was invited to put his numbers in front of scouts and he made the most of it.

Nico Leonard has a rugby pedigree like few others, holding the career try record for Paul Roos Gymnasium, a school that proudly holds the record of producing 54 players for the Springboks national team. An experienced professional for the Western Province’s DHL Stormers, it’s clear he has the training regimen of a top athlete.

27 reps on the bench at his size is impressive and a 10-foot, two-inch broad jump speaks to his explosiveness, but a 4.59 forty-yard time really stands out as the fourth fastest of the Combine. Unfortunately, Leonard pulled his hamstring while running that blazing time, preventing him from showing off the change of direction skills he frequently exploits on the rugby field.

For no player did the Combine matter more than Nico Leonard, who has no actual football tape to fall back on. Even though he couldn’t finish, the numbers he did post will stand out.

David Izinyon, LB, United Kingdom
Last Team: Tychy Falcon (LFA-Poland)
HT: 6’1 3/8″ / WT: 240 / Age: 27
Bench: 30 / Forty: 4.83 / Broad: 10’3 1/4″ / 3Cone: 7.30 / Shuttle: 4.40

David Izinyon looks like a Greek god and his combine numbers prove it isn’t just for show.

Pop and power are the name of the game here and Izinyon has it in spades with 30 reps on the bench and a 10-foot, three-and-one-quarter-inch broad jump. That’s made more impressive by the almost 30 pounds Izinyon has on any other player that jumped more than 10 feet, save for China’s Boqaio Li.

His 4.83 forty-yard dash isn’t mind blowing but it will serve him well once he’s placed down on the defensive line like Global trailblazer Thiadric Hansen. The two boast remarkably similar dimensions, but Izinyon actually clocked in slightly faster, jumped further and dramatically out-benched the Grey Cup hero while posting much better change of direction numbers.

Sebastien Sagne, REC, Finland
Last Team: Helsinki Wolverines (Maple League)
HT: 6’2 1/2″ / WT: 199 / Age: 27
Bench: 7 / Forty: 4.53 / Broad: 10’5 3/8″ / 3Cone: 6.80 / Shuttle: 4.20

Sagne caused quite a stir in the European football community when the Finnish federation reported he ran a 4.32-second forty at their Combine workout. That was downgraded to a 4.53 by the CFL’s verification process, but it’s still impressive enough to make this list.

The number that can’t be fudged, however, is Sagne’s 10-foot, five-and-three-eights-inch broad jump, which narrowly edged out Japan’s Riki Matsui for the top result. His 6.80 three-cone time is equally impressive, showing remarkable change of direction ability.

This group of Global receivers is very talented, but the margins are extremely slim and some teams may not value the position highly. Showing blue chip traits in the Combine was essential and Sagne did just that.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.