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Chapdelaines experience Combine from both sides of the equation
Posted: March 24th, 2013 @ 6:09pm
TORONTO - Getting a chance to perform for coaches from every Canadian Football League team Sunday was an opportunity Justin Chapdelaine won't soon forget.
"You're competing against all the elite athletes in Canada, so you get to compare yourself to them," said Chapdelaine, the Queen's Golden Gaels receiver who was one of 55 draft-eligible seniors invited to the CFL Combine on the weekend.
"Just being in the presence of coaches is great as well, trying to show them what you have as an athlete and a football player."
One of those coaches was just a little more familiar than the others. Justin's father, Jacques, is the offensive co-ordinator of the B.C. Lions. Chapdelaine the elder, who has been to a number of these gatherings solely as a coach, was asked if having a son in the midst of the proceedings made this one any different.
"Yes and no," he said.
"I've got a vested in interest in my son and I want to see him do well," he continued, without sharing the opinion of either the dispassionate coach or the proud parent. "The biggest thing is to see him do as well as he can do in his own skill set."
The combine is an evaluation camp held annually about six weeks before the league draft, which this year will be held May 6. Over three days, players undergo a series of strength, speed and agility tests, as well as one-on-one contests against players on the other side of the ball.
Justin Chapdelaine said his goal for the weekend was to demonstrate his running and catching ability. "Just let people see me as a football player," he said.
Though in the bottom third of test results at his position for 40-yard sprint, bench press and vertical jump, Chapdelaine performed well in Sunday's game-simulation drills. He was sure-handed, missing vey few catches, and scrapped gamely with defenders who clearly weren't constrained by the normal rules of pass coverage.
He said knowing one coach's critique might be just a little more discerning than the rest didn't bother him in the least.
"He's always been there, he's always watching me," Justin said of his father. "It's no different from just pitching and catching, when we're just throwing around with each other.
"It's a lot different when you're around coaches that you don't know. My father talks and says what he likes about me but you don't know what the other coaches like."
To that end, the best part of the camp, Justin said, may have been the interviews conducted by team personnel with the draft candidates on Saturday.
"I enjoyed the interviews a lot," he said. "It's great meeting all the coaches in the CFL, talking to them, allowing them to see your character, to see me as a person, and know what they expect of me."
What coaches expect to glean from the combine, Jacques Chapdelaine said, is a better context by which to assess what they already know about the young players. "To be able to assess kids, apples to apples."
"You see them throughout the league and some kids are probably put in a more beneficial situation because of their offensive system, when it comes to receivers, anyways," he said, "and some of them are not put in a positive situation because of the offensive system, depending on the kids that are playing with them."
Even in the condensed and controlled environment of a combine, Chapdelaine said, coaches can and do learn a lot.
"You look at the kids and get them to test, and you project the test results to be a little bit of a window on what they can do on the football field," he said, "but the dichotomy is such that what they do in the testing room is not necessarily duplicated on the football field.
"Some kids will run great 40s but when they go to run in a football environment they just don't seem to run as fast. Some kids don't run a great 40 but when they run in a football environment, all of a sudden they look faster.
"What you have to do is take the game film from the season and cross it over with what you see here and come to greater conclusions."
Though he is not scheduled to graduate this semester, Justin Chapdelaine, a phys-ed student, is eager to give professional football a try.
"My goal is to join a team and go to training camp and take it from there," he said. "If it works out, then that's great. If I make the team and dress that would be awesome but if it (means being on a) practice roster, I'll do practice roster.
"If I don't get drafted I'm going to go back to Queen's, have my last year and hope they have a good season as well."
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