16 NFL teams attend pro day for UBC offensive linemen Theo Benedet, Giovanni Manu

Photo courtesy: Hana Kim

Scouts from 16 NFL teams and six CFL franchises were at BC Place on Friday to take in the pro day for University of British Columbia offensive linemen Theo Benedet and Giovanni Manu.

Benedet measured in at six-foot-seven and 295 pounds. He put up 23 reps of 225 on the bench while leaping 34.5 inches in the vertical and 114 inches in the broad. He clocked a 5.14-second forty-yard dash with a 1.77 ten-yard split, before recording a 7.69 three-cone and 4.60 short shuttle.

The North Vancouver native’s vertical jump would have tied for fifth at this year’s NFL Combine, while his broad jump would have tied for sixth.

Manu stood six-foot-seven and 352 pounds. Despite that enormous size, he recorded a 5.03-second forty-yard dash with a 1.81 ten-yard split, as well as an 8.29 three-cone and 4.81 short shuttle. He also put up 23 reps on the bench, while leaping 33.5 inches in the vertical and 107 inches in the broad.

His forty-yard dash would have tied for ninth at the NFL Combine this year, while his vertical would have tied for sixth. He would have been the second-heaviest offensive lineman at the event behind only fellow Canadian Anim Dankwah.

Benedet has started every game in his four seasons at UBC at right tackle, becoming the most decorated offensive lineman in the history of Canadian university football. The North Vancouver native is the first offensive player to win back-to-back J.P. Metras Trophies as the country’s top down lineman and secured first-team All-Canadian honours on both occasions.

Manu has had a prolific career in his own right, earning second-team All-Canadian honours in each of the last two seasons while playing both left guard and left tackle. The Pitt Meadows, B.C. product was once a high school basketball standout in the province, earning the nickname ‘Baby Shaq.’

Both players were expected to be first-round picks in the 2023 CFL Draft, before surprising many scouts with their decision to defer their draft year. Benedet attended the East-West Shrine Bowl despite that decision and impressed as the only U Sports representative, finishing as the fifth-highest-graded offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus and becoming the only blocker to rate in the 75th percentile or above in all pass-set metrics.

That performance fueled NFL attention throughout the pair’s final university season. 13 different NFL franchises either visited campus last season or made inquiries as the Thunderbirds made a run to the Vanier Cup, losing to the Montreal Carabins. Benedet later attended the College Gridiron Showcase in January and was one of the most interviewed prospects, speaking with nearly every team in attendance.

The pair have a chance to become the first U Sports players selected in the NFL Draft since University of Manitoba defensive tackle David Onyemata who was taken in the fourth round in 2016 by the New Orleans Saints. Dallas Cowboys’ offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley is the only UBC player currently in the league.

In addition to their two NFL prospect, seven other UBC players took part in the event, including Kyle Samson, Ryan Baker, Brad Hladik, Mitch Townsend, Edgerrin Williams-Hernandez, and Lucas Mastrodomenico. The most notable was Samson, who was unable to attend the CFL Invitational Combine in Waterloo due to injury.

Representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Chiefs made the trek across the border. The only three CFL that didn’t attend the event were the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Toronto Argonauts.

Nine NFL scouts attended the pro day for offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back in 2014, while offensive lineman Geoff Gray drew nine to Manitoba in 2017 and tight end Antony Auclair drew 17 to Laval that same year. David Onyemata also drew 17 NFL scouts when he held his pro day with the Bisons in 2016.

The number of scouts on hand far exceeded previous UBC pro days held in 2016 and 2019, which attracted two and one team respectively.

The 2024 NFL Draft will take place in Detroit, Mich. from April 25 to 27, before the CFL Draft gets underway on April 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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.