The Hawks are ready to fly at the CFL Combine

Photo by Luke Sarazin

On March 24 and 25, the nation’s top football prospects will gather in Winnipeg to compete in the CFL combine.

The combine functions as the most in-depth job interview imaginable, where players’ heights, weights, arm lengths, speed, strength and every other point of measurement are scrupulously examined by CFL coaches and scouts.

Then, with athletic testing completed, prospects will engage in a series of drills known only as ‘one-on-ones.’ One defensive player will face-off against one offensive player, and the two of them will compete under the eyes of dozens of CFL personnel. A lonely prospect no doubt, but also one that hundreds of U-Sport players across the nation are vying for.

However, it should be noted that getting invited to the CFL combine is an accomplishment in and of itself. Ron Kinga, a fourth-year defensive back and communications studies student at Laurier, competed in the Ontario regional combine on March 9, with the hopes of earning an invitation to Winnipeg later this month.

When interviewing Ron, he spoke about the intensity of his workouts leading up to the Ontario regional combine.

“I never leave [ESP in Brantford] without being drenched in sweat,” he said.

“[Our trainer] over trains us to the point past exhaustion where, when it comes down to performing, we’re never going to be as exhausted [as we are in training] when it comes down to the competition. It gets you pushing your limits in a way that you couldn’t push them yourself.”

When speaking with Rashari Henry, a fourth-year defensive lineman and economics student, he expressed many of the same sentiments as Ron in terms of work-ethic in the gym.

“Your why, the reason you do what you do, it has to come from within. If it’s external, then as soon as you hit a wall you won’t be able to keep going because your ‘why’ is too superficial.”

But football is not played in the gym, and much of the focus for prospects resides in their ability to both critique their own flaws, and then improve them.

When asked on which areas he most seeks to improve, Rashari answered without pause.

“I’ve been watching my [game] tape, just to see what has worked in the past and what hasn’t, trying to figure out what moves to use against a certain body type or a certain type of blocker,” he said.

“[I’m trying] to incorporate more moves and using my hands more, but for the most part I play to my strengths which are my power and my speed.”

Both Rashari and Ron have the physical ability to compete at the next level, as well as the technical proficiency. But, however desirable the physical and technical are, they can be entirely undone without adequate mental fortitude. Fortunately, this is where both Ron and Rashari excel. When asked about the mental preparation they have done in getting ready for their respective combines, both Ron and Rashari provided answers worth listening to.

“Visualizing myself [doing] the actual drills is what I’ve done, which I find helps a lot. [Just] doing the combine in your head, that way, once you get there, you’ve already done it so many times it’s not as big of a deal,” Henry said.

When asked the same question, Ron dove right to the heart of the matter.

“Your why, the reason you do what you do, it has to come from within. If it’s external, then as soon as you hit a wall you won’t be able to keep going because your ‘why’ is too superficial.”

Unfortunately, Ron was not invited to participate in the CFL combine, but his words ring no less true. With Godfrey Onyeka, Isaiah Guzylak-Messam and Rashari Henry set to attend the CFL combine, the purple and gold is well represented.

And these three players can look back on all of the early mornings, all of the late nights, all of the suffering they have done for their sport and know that there is only one test left between them and the professional stage. One more workout at the end of so many others.

March 24 is steadily approaching, and from the sounds of things, the Golden Hawks are ready.

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