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Two Gee-Gees return from CFL tryouts

Dan LeRoy | Fulcrum Staff

Earlier this month, Gee-Gees fourth-year running back Brendan Gillanders and fourth-year wide receiver Simon Le Marquand participated in the Canadian Football League (CFL) Combine, the top training camp for football prospects. Expectations were high for these two students, and they would not disappoint.

The CFL Combine is a weekend-long training camp that takes place in March of every year and brings the top university football players from across the country together. Players have their skills assessed and are ranked in six drills: bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, and short shuttle.

Le Marquand, a criminology and psychology student, landed in the top rankings for three of the six drills the players were measured on—third place in the vertical jump, second place in the short shuttle, and first place in the three-cone drill.

Le Marquand said that in accompanying interviews he had with the CFL teams, he felt like he was really able to emphasize his strengths as a player and feels confident that he may be picked in the CFL draft on May 6.

“I think [the CFL] teams saw that I’m a good athlete and that’s what they’re looking for,” Le Marquand said about his performance.

When asked about which CFL team he would like to play on, Le Marquand did not hesitate.

“My dream team is Montreal,” he said. “I grew up watching them on TV. I think I would be a good fit in their team because I’m bilingual and I’m from Hull, Que. The interviews went well with both Montreal and Calgary; I had a good chemistry with both of those teams’ general managers.”

For human kinetics student Gillanders, participating in the CFL Combine was an exciting experience that ended too soon. Gillanders placed second in the vertical jump, getting an impressive 41 inches off the ground, but his weekend came to an abrupt halt when he landed the wrong way in the blocking drill and rolled his ankle.

Before his injury occurred, Gillanders felt he made a good impression on the scouts.

“I feel I was able to separate myself from the other running backs in terms of athleticism and versatility on the football field,” he said. Just like his teammate, Gillanders is hopeful that come May 6, he will be picked up by a CFL team.

Unlike Le Marquand, Gillanders would not name his favourite team or where he hopes to end up.

“I won’t play favourites,” he said. “All I’m looking for is an opportunity to try out for a CFL team. Any team that chooses me will be my favourite team, and I’ll do everything in my power to make the dress roster and positively contribute to that football team.”

So what does having a bachelor’s degree mean for these potential professional athletes? Le Marquand explained that it makes for a hectic schedule balancing school and sports, but it’s worth it.

“It’s not just big dudes fighting for the ball,” Le Marquand said about university sports. “It’s smart guys out there who worked hard to be able to play on the field by studying for school and their play books.”

For Gillanders, his studies in human kinetics have combined his passion for football and sports with his academia.

“Fitness training, physiology, coaching, and sport psychology [are] all courses offered in my program [that] have helped me develop as an athlete and are directly related to the profession of athletic training which I intend to pursue,” said Gillanders.

That is, if he doesn’t end up on our TV screens on Grey Cup Sunday first. Past Gee-Gees who have made it to the CFL include quarterback Brad Sinopoli, who plays for the Calgary Stampeders, and Ezra Millington, who signed with the Montreal Alouettes.

“If football doesn’t work for me, I’ll have my degree and will be able to start my life,” said Le Marquand. “However, football is what I want to do if I can make it.”