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'A lot of eyes are on you': Riders prepare for CFL Combine

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Preparations are underway for this year’s Canadian Football League (CFL) Combine taking place in Winnipeg, M.B.

Earlier this week, general managers and coaches addressed media, including Corey Mace, who is going into his first CFL Combine since taking over as head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“I’ve been to a bunch of these but just wearing a different lens so to speak. Just seeing the full aspect of all the participants here,” he said. “I’m intrigued to put on a different lens, no doubt.”

When asked if anything will change with having Mace on the team this year, Jeremy O’Day, Riders’ Vice-President of Football Operations and General Manager (GM), said the approach is still the same.

“Obviously there’s different people in the interview room. Anytime you have different people in the room, there’s going to be different questions but we still have a core group of questions. It’s always fun to get to know these kids and looking forward to it,” he said.

The combine will feature 100 national and global athletes hoping to make an impression on CFL scouts, GM’S, and coaches ahead of this year’s draft in May.

Of the 100 players, 13 are global prospects while the rest are from across Canada. O’Day tipped his hat to the Canadian talent that has substantially gotten better over the years in the sport.

“It’s improved all the way from strength programs to the coaching opportunities that Canadian places are getting more of. Twenty years ago, there were only a few guys that got an opportunity to go play in the NCAA. Now there’s a lot more guys that are being recruited. I mean, you could see it even in the NFL Draft this year. There’s more guys that are being drafted and signed,” he shared.

Mace reflected on his years in the CFL and said it’s neat to be able to see it from both sides.

“In 2007, I was walking these hallways so to speak, you know, as a participant. So now to be on the flip side, it’s a cool aspect. Just having a little bit of understanding of what these participants are going through,” he said.

“Physically you are looking to perform your best. A lot of eyes are on you and preparing you to be a professional. You learn really quick about yourself from an adversity standpoint. I think it preps you to understand what it is to be a pro.”

The NFL Draft takes place from April 25-27 and the CFL Draft will happen on April 30. The Roughriders currently have the third overall pick and say they will most likely try to keep it that way.

“I think we look at every opportunity that comes up. If there’s an opportunity to make a trade that makes sense for our team then we’ll do that. If you’re asking if I’d like to keep our draft pick I’d say, ‘Yes,’ but you know we never take them off the table if there’s an opportunity for us to get better,” O’Day said.

From March 21 to 24, the athletes will undergo testing and practices, as well as drills and on-field work.

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