UBC offensive lineman Theo Benedet selected to East-West Shrine Bowl

Photo courtesy: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics ***MANDATORY CREDIT***

University of British Columbia offensive lineman Theo Benedet has been selected to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

The six-foot-seven, 305-pound blocker was named a Canada West all-star and first-team All-Canadian at tackle last season after helping the Thunderbirds make a surprise to the Hardy Cup. The team finished sixth in the country last season with an average of 180.5 rushing yards per game.

Benedet was also awarded the J. P. Metras Trophy, given annually to the top lineman in U Sports football. Previous winners of the award include New Orleans Saints’ defensive tackle David Onyemata, New York Jets’ offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and B.C. Lions’ defensive end Mathieu Betts.

All of those players — along with the likes of Antony Auclair, Carter O’Donnell, Marc-Antoine Dequoy and Pier-Olivier Lestage — have previously used an invitation to the East-West Shrine Bowl as a launching pad for NFL opportunities.

The oldest college football all-star game in existence has invited at least two prospects from Canadian universities to take part in their showcase since 1985. That quota was reduced to just one player a year ago, with Western defensive lineman Deionte Knight being the only selection in 2022 and Benedet expected to be the sole U Sports invite in 2023.

The North Vancouver, B.C. native will participate as a member of the West team, which will be coached by the staff of the New England Patriots.

Benedet was the eighth-ranked prospect on the CFL’s September scouting bureau rankings for the 2023 CFL Draft — the highest U Sports player on the list — and was considered by many to be a first-round lock. However, the 21-year-old made the surprising decision to defer his CFL Draft year to 2024 and return to school, meaning he will not be eligible for selection this year.

That decision does not prevent him from being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft or signing as an undrafted free agent after the fact, meaning that Benedet could head south of the border if he has a strong showing in Las Vegas.

Thousands of East-West Shrine Bowl alumni have gone on to play in the NFL over the past century, including 78 who are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Practices for the 98th East-West Shrine Bowl will begin on Saturday, January 28, with the game scheduled to take place Thursday, February 2 at 8:30 p.m. EST in Allegiant Stadium. The event will be broadcast live on NFL Network.

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.