Offensive guard Andrew Pickett of the Guelph Gryphons was one of five Canadians among 180 players invited to take part in the College Gridiron Showcase early this month at Addison, Tex.
“It was put on so that you could showcase you skills, showcase your abilities,” he said. “It would give the opportunity to some guys who are getting NFL looks and other guys who would not necessarily have gotten the looks. It really gave you a chance to go out there and perform and show what you can do in front of NFL scouts, CFL scouts – everyone.”
While there were CFL scouts there to watch the proceedings, it was basically a showcase event for players hoping to get selected in the NFL and it used American rules, as opposed to Canadian rules. For Pickett, that meant the defensive linemen were lined up right on top of him. In Canada, the lines are a yard apart when play starts.
“It was definitely a lot faster,” he said. “It took a little adjusting, but it was a lot of fun. It was quicker, it was faster and it was more physical. They love to hit. It was really cool because everyone was high stakes so everyone was doing this as an opportunity. They want to get looks. You’re down there and you’re competing and that no-yard is just like they’re right on you and they could see who wants this more.”
Attendance in the showcase was by invitation only.
“That was pretty cool,” Pickett said. “You don’t really expect it being up here in Canada. You don’t expect these kinds of invitations and you don’t really hear about them too often. This is really cool.”
Pickett’s invitation came about as a result of the showcase organizers talking to CFL teams and asking them who they’d like to see get invitations. Pickett’s name was on most of their lists.
The players didn’t receive much coaching at the showcase. During the five-day event, each player had two practice sessions, a scrimmage and lots of meetings.
“They didn’t want to coach you too much because they didn’t want to mess you up with what you’d already been coached, so they just gave you pointers here and there,” Pickett said. “You’d have a practice and do one-on-ones, inside run to show what you can do. After that you’d have meetings and it was meetings on what to do financially, what to expect, what to expect insurance wise, just preparing you for once you get there (to the NFL).”
Players also met with various NFL and CFL teams.
“Green Bay and Los Angeles Rams, I think they interviewed everyone so I got to talk to them a lot,” Pickett said. “And I got to talk to a couple of CFL teams here and there.”
At some point the players had to feel a little like the cattle at the Texas livestock auctions.
“At one point we had to do official weight and height so you’re there in nothing but your compression shorts. You’re standing there, they call your name, you walk up and you stand on the scale and they call out your weight. Then you walk up to another guy and they measure your height and they call out your height, but you’re in a crowd of people and as soon as something’s called out, they write it down.”
For Pickett, ranked 15th among players eligible for this year’s CFL draft, getting picked in the NFL draft would be a dream come true.
“The NFL draft is still a long shot away,” he said. “Really, what I’m hoping comes from this is -- the NFL draft is obviously the goal, but even an NFL mini-camp invite or something like that or an NFL camp invite. In all honesty, any chance at the NFL would be awesome.”
And he feels he held his own among all the players at the showcase.
“The first couple of days was adjusting, but once it got going I’m very happy with how it went. I was super pumped at the level of competitiveness and I was super pumped at how everything went and I’m very happy with how I did.”
It might also help move him up in the CFL draft rankings.
“I went down there and I played a bunch of different positions so I’m hoping that they take that into consideration and I hope they bump up my CFL stock. At the end of the day, you still have to work and you still have to go to that CFL combine. I’m just using this as more motivation to push myself harder.”