‘Never say never’: Lions’ co-GM Neil McEvoy won’t rule out Sedin-like trade to draft local Philpot twins

Photo courtesy: David Moll/Calgary Dinos

In June of 1999, Vancouver Canucks general manager Brian Burke was sitting with the third overall pick in the NHL Draft and had perhaps the most important gut feeling in the history of the city.

Through a series of complicated and bold trades, Burke went out and acquired the second overall pick as well, betting the future of his franchise on a set of highly-skilled, 190-pound identical twins.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin would ultimately spend 18 years as the face of the Canucks franchise, eventually ushering in the greatest era in team history. Both will one day be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Though it is sure to garner far less media attention, B.C. Lions’ co-general manager Neil McEvoy sits in much the same position as Burke did nearly 23 years ago. The rebuilding Lions hold the third overall pick in Tuesday’s CFL Draft and likely to be sitting there when the team gets on the clock is a pair of highly-skilled, 190-pound identical twin receivers: Jalen and Tyson Philpot.

So is McEvoy planning his own Burkeian maneuver to get in position to snag them both? He certainly isn’t ruling it out.

“Never say never,” McEvoy replied cheekily. “That’s not in the cards today at 10:25 a.m. on a Friday, but maybe at 10:27 a.m. there is a chance.”

“As of right now, no, that’s not in the works, but we still have a couple days.”

The Lions aren’t about to lay all their cards on the table when it comes to who they actually covet for the third overall selection and there is plenty to suggest that the team’s needs lie elsewhere. Jevon Cottoy is a lock to be their lone starting Canadian receiver and possesses a dramatically different skillset than either Philpot, while depth would appear to be lacking on the offensive line.

Nevertheless, the Sedin comparison is a marketing dream and remarkably apt. Daniel and Henrik were precision passers, while Jalen and Tyson are precision route runners, but neither set of twins is likely to blow you away with their athletic measurables and both faced questions about how they would handle the physical jump in competition.

Where they differ substantially is that the Sedins were imported all the way from Sweden, whereas the Philpots are B.C. born and bred, graduates of Seaquam Secondary School just over 20 minutes away from the Lions’ facility.

That is a factor that Lions consider in all their evaluations, with ten B.C. products already on their roster and other players from the Pacific Northwest littered throughout.

“Honestly, I’ve always been a guy that loves local players. If that’s a fault, that’s a fault of mine,” McEvoy admitted unapologetically.

“The reality is if you’re good enough and you’re local, that’s an extra tick in my box. We’re going to continue bringing in the best players we can, regardless of where they’re from, but I’m going to hopefully get the local guys first.”

At the top of the CFL Draft, the Philpots are likely to fit both of those criteria. In three seasons at the University of Calgary, Jalen has registered 113 catches for 1,889 yards and 10 touchdowns while twice being named an All-Canadian.

Tyson has earned that distinction just once, but was named the Player of the Year in the Canada West in 2021 and was U Sports’ top freshman in 2018. He has 77 receptions for 1,574 yards and 14 touchdowns in 16 career games.

That special ability on the field is inherited from their father, former B.C. Lions’ running back Cory Philpot. The man they called ‘Quick Six’ spent five seasons in the B.C. backfield, racking up 4,459 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground, and was the team’s ball carrier when McEvoy joined the organization in the ticket sales department back in 1995.

Since then the two have stayed closely connected through football, even coaching together. Philpot has been a driving force in amateur football in British Columbia, previously serving as president of its provincial sports organization. He is currently the head coach of the Langley Rams — a team which counts McEvoy among its alumni — and won a CJFL National Championship last year.

“This is just me on my little apple cart here, but that’s a young man from Mississippi coming up to Surrey, British Columbia to play in the Canadian Football League,” McEvoy said of the elder Philpot. “Roots, children, he runs minor football in the province of B.C., does so much stuff for this community and without the B.C Lions, Cory Philpot, who knows where he is? He’s certainly not in Vancouver.”

“That is just a testament to the Canadian Football League and what it does to bring young men up to Canada, guys who put roots down and build better futures for all of us.”

If they draft either of his sons, the Lions would be reaping their own reward. If they manage to grab both, they will have more ready-made marketing fodder to engage their fan base than they could possibly hope for.

If a bombshell trade were to happen, McEvoy suspects it would occur in the hours between the end of the Global Draft on May 3 and the commencement of the Canadian one, timing not dissimilar to when the Lions moved up to first overall in the 2020 draft to grab reigning Most Outstanding Rookie Jordan Williams.

It remains a long shot storyline, but Vancouver knows well that a wheeling-and-dealing executive with the right conviction can make just about anything happen. With their deep connection to the club and its decision makers, the Philpots may just be the type of players worthy of inspiring such boldness.

“I think whichever team has the option and the ability to draft either one of those young men will be pleased and happy with how they progress and build football careers in the Canadian Football League,” McEvoy said.

Whether he’ll be the one smiling on Tuesday remains to be seen.

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.