The University of British Columbia has become a travel destination for NFL scouts. That’s because the Thunderbirds have two athletic offensive linemen with the potential to play on Sundays, Giovanni Manu No. 76 and Theo Benedet No. 72.
The Chicago Bears had a talent evaluator at UBC’s homecoming win over the University of Alberta on Saturday, September 22. The Thunderbirds’ tackles helped the offence amass 666 total yards and 54 points. The Carolina Panthers are scheduled to have a representative at the T-Birds’ Saturday, October 21 game against the University of Regina.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles have visited campus so far this year. Head coach Blake Nill and offensive coordinator Stevenson Bone have talked to a double-digit number of teams about Benedet and Manu.
NFL scouts want to see plays that pop on tape and physical dominance at the U Sports football level. That’s how Laurent Duvernay-Tardif caught the attention of personnel people south of the border while he was playing at McGill University. He had plays where he drove defenders 20 yards downfield and buried opponents in the turf for example.
The six-foot-seven, 305-pound Benedet was invited and attended the prestigious East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas in February, earning distinction as the most well-rounded offensive tackle in attendance by rating in the 75th percentile or above in all pass set metrics according to advanced movement analysis. The six-foot-eight, 350-pound Manu can dunk a basketball and do the splits, a remarkable feat for a man his size.
UBC leads the country with 42.2 points per game while quarterback Garrett Rooker leads the Canadian West conference with 311 passing yards per game with an 11-3 TD-INT ratio. He’s been given lots of time in the pocket thanks to his two dominating tackles.
Benedet won the J. P. Metras Trophy last year, given annually to the top lineman in Canadian University football. Previous winners of the award include Duvernay-Tardif and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle David Onyemata. Both young men were All-Canadians in 2022 and are well on their way to earning the same distinctions this year.
There is precedent for UBC offensive linemen going to the NFL. Former Thunderbirds all-star Dakoda Shepley signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the New York Jets in 2018. He’s been in the NFL for five seasons and played for the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts while earning nearly $1.5 million USD. Nill feels it’s been a similar process for Benedet and Manu attracting interest from south of the border.
Expect more NFL teams to make the trip to Vancouver to check out Benedet and Manu live and in person.