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Katherine DeClerq | Fulcrum Staff

LAST YEAR, THE Gee-Gees saw one of their own make it to the 2011 Canadian Football League (CFL) draft, chosen 29th by the Calgary Stampeders. Now two more University of Ottawa athletes have the opportunity to take that leap, having completed the 2012 CFL evaluation camp in Toronto.Fourth-year receiver Bogdan Raic and fourth-year linebacker Tyler Sawyer spent the last two months in intensive training in preparation for the March 2–4 grilling and drilling.

“This is literally the biggest job interview of your life,” said Sawyer. “We put all our eggs in one basket. That’s why we were so disciplined in our diet, training—everything.”

The weekend began with one-on-one interviews between the athletes and the coaches. Sawyer was interviewed by Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger-Cats while Raic spoke with Toronto Argonauts.

“We had to get all dolled up, wear suits, gel our hair, look good,” said Sawyer. “[The interviews] were like 15-minute speed dating. You got grilled with everything—your past, what you want to do in life, football-related questions, everything and anything. We tried to prepare for it, but you can’t prepare for something like that.”

Saturday morning saw the athletes participate in a bench press testing, where they were asked to do as many repetitions as they could with a 250-pound weight while being watched by 60–70 coaches, scouts, and general managers. The day concluded with vertical and long jumping tests.

Sunday was the real challenge, as the players took the field for a 40-yard dash, a short-shuffle test, and a pro-agility test. It also included one-on-one field drills.

When asked what they thought the scouts were looking for, both Gees responded with “everything.”

“All 60 draft eligible players were invited based on their performance, so they already know you can play football at a decently high level,” explained Sawyer. “They need things that will separate you from the other guys—high character kids who can play ball.”

“They look at how you are as a person, and how you handle [the pressure],” said Raic.

Raic spoke in more detail about how Sawyer handled an injury he received during the evaluation camp.

“[Sawyer] pulled his hamstring 10 days before, and then he pulled it again during the Sunday warm-up. As a player, he handled it very well. I think teams will see that as heart and determination.”

The athletes spoke highly of each other, throwing around compliments on their performances throughout the weekend. This tight bond came from two months of intensive training, where the Gees basically spent all their time together.

“I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. and [Raic] would wake up at 5 a.m., because he lives a bit closer. I would start making our food, and we would get to the gym at 6 a.m.,” said Sawyer. “[On Mondays] we worked on lower body lifts. We would be done at 7:45 a.m., drink our protein shake, and go get 100 catches in before 8:15 a.m.

“Then we would run for class. We went to the track at 12 p.m. at the Louis Riel Dome, did whatever the day called for … linear speed, drills, or football training with our strength coach.”

“At the beginning your body is just dead, so literally we would ice tub 1–3 times a day,” added Raic. “We would also stretch and started hot yoga together. It was a grind, but it was all worth it.”

Raic and Sawyer trained four hours a day for two months, all the while eating right and keeping up with their schoolwork. They explained the demanding training regiment forced them to eat full meals in classes in order to build energy after a workout.

“We were walking around with huge bags with lunch kits—two steaks, four chicken breasts, cucumbers, peppers, nuts, and whipping them out in class and eating it,” said Sawyer.

Regardless of the outcome, both athletes are happy with their performance and future in football. Whether it’s a spot in the 2012 CFL draft, an invitation to a camp as a free agent, or being on the front line with the Gees come September, they know the experience will be something they will never forget.

“It was an investment. If we don’t get picked up, we already put in tons of work and that will pay off,” explained Sawyer.

For Raic and Sawyer, this was the chance they were waiting for—to prove that they could make it in the world of football.

“This is where we wanted to end up, and we got the opportunity to get there,” said Raic.

Forty-five athletes will be chosen in the 2012 CFL Draft on May 3.