Will he stay or will he go?
It was ten minutes before the CFL draft, but Shamawd Chambers wasn’t glued to his TV. The star Laurier receiver and No. 3-ranked pre-draft prospect was somewhere he felt much more comfortable; outside, running routes and catching footballs.
When Chambers finally did come inside and join his mother to watch the draft in their Markham, Ont. home, he sat and watched as he slipped down, through the first five picks, eventually being taken off the board by the Edmonton Eskimos sixth overall — the highest a Laurier player has been taken since 2007.
“I was a little upset that I was sliding, I think anyone would be, but I wasn’t necessarily nervous,” said Chambers. “It was a good experience, it was exciting, but at the same time I was relieved once it was all over with.”
The main reason Chambers dropped in the first round of the May 3 draft was the uncertainty surrounding his playing future. A week after the draft, Chambers had a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles, raising questions about whether or not he would be available for the start of the CFL season, which is just a month away.
Chambers didn’t win an NFL contract during his brief stint in Philadelphia, but he certainly doesn’t regret the experience. Nor is he giving up on his hopes of playing four-down football this fall.
“I think it was well worth going down to that tryout to see what the NFL is all about,” he said. “As of right now, the plan is to basically look at any options that come up. Obviously, I’m just trying to work out the situation with Edmonton, work out a contract, but if another option comes up, it comes up.”
Even Laurier head coach Gary Jeffries, a staunch supporter of the Canadian game is happy to see his former player getting a crack at the NFL. Even if it may mean another one of Canada’s brightest young stars heading south.
“I’m pulling for him to go as high as he can go and realize his dream. His dream is to get to the NFL, so I’m pulling for that for him,” said Jeffries, who saw Chambers rack up 2,068 receiving yards and catch 18 touchdowns in four years at Laurier.
“Sure I’d love to see him play [in Canada] and be able to see him all the time and that may happen yet, but number one: I’d like to see him reach his goal and achieve his dream.”
But while Chambers chases that dream south of border, contract talks with the Eskimos appear to be hitting a wall.
“I don’t really know what’s going on with the negotiation process. They’ve offered two contracts that I haven’t really felt comfortable taking,” said Chambers. “Rookie camp starts in two days, but as of right now I don’t think we’ve gotten far.”
While goal number one for Chambers appears to still be an NFL contract, he is excited at the prospect of playing in Edmonton.
“It’s a good spot, period,” he said. “Edmonton’s a great city, it’s got the nickname the City of Champions; the fans are great, so I’d love to be able to go out there and perform for the city.But the business side is what needs to get taken care of before anything else and unfortunately that’s the stuff that really slows everything down.”
With just 16 Canadians currently playing in the NFL — only four of which came through the Canadian university ranks — Chambers appears to be facing a tall order in his quest to break into the American game.
But at 6’3, 218lbs, Chambers possesses almost prototypical size for an NFL wide receiver. And the 4.42-second 40-yard dash he ran at the CFL scouting combine in February was not only tops in Canada, but it was the fastest in North America for a receiver of his size.
“He’s just scratching the surface,” said Jeffries of Chambers’ potential. “It goes without saying, he’s a tremendous talent. But once he gets to that next level, with the talent that he has, getting professional coaching, it could take him to a whole different plane.”
While Chambers will no doubt continue putting in work on his physical abilities — such as catching over 200 passes a day as he did in the days leading up to the CFL draft and his tryout in Philadelphia — in his eyes, it will be his mind that will set him apart.
“I think what’s gotten me here has nothing to do with my ability to play football,” he said.
“I think what got me here was the intangibles. Physically, when you get to a certain level, everyone is capable of doing the exact same thing; it’s the mental side and the attitude that sets apart the elite athletes.”
Should Chambers make an NFL roster, he would join Nate Burleson of the Detroit Lions and Austin Collie of the Indianapolis Colts as the only Canadian wide receivers in the league.
However, of those three, Chambers would be the only one to come from a Canadian school. Should Chambers and the Eskimos be unable to reach a deal, and things don’t pan out in the NFL, the Golden Hawks could potentially get their star wideout back in 2012.
Chambers only used four of his five years of Canadian Interuniversity Sport eligibility and is, therefore, able to re-join the Hawks for a fifth and final year.