Mac receiver is taking his NFL shot
He caught 11 passes in the final game of the year. Which means he was tackled 11 times, each further pounding his already sore body. Throw in the blocks he threw, screens he ran into and other collisions he absorbed, and that Saturday afternoon at Laurier was a meat grinder.
So you just know that when it was over and there were no more games to play, he scoped out a relaxing spot on the couch and took a nice long break to let himself recover. Or not. “By Tuesday, I was back in the gym,” Danny Vandervoort says.
Such is the lot of a young man with enormous opportunities opening in front of him. Yes, he really could use some time off but that’ll have to wait until later. His career is on the line right now.
For four years, the 22-year-old has been the best receiver on the McMaster Marauders. Based on his size (six-foot-two and 204 pounds) and his terrific hands, he’s considered one of the best draft-eligible pass catchers in the country.
The Canadian Football League’s Central Scouting department has him ranked as the seventh best prospect overall — second among receivers — but he was as high as fourth until Mac went to a more run-focused attack which may have impacted his spot.
He’s so good that, late in January, his agent called to let him know he’d been invited to the NFL regional combine. Some folks from that league want to take a look at him and see if he might have a future there. Yes, he was surprised. “I’m just trying to turn some heads,” Vandervoort says. “Maybe get my name out there. If I did get a shot down south it would be amazing.”
So, a week from Saturday, he’ll be in Washington competing against a bunch of American guys he’s never faced before. Doing physical testing that day and then football drills the next.
The chance to make a mark is massively motivating.
Every morning, he’s up at 7 and off to the gym with some Mac teammates. For two hours they lift weights. Each afternoon they’re back for another session. A few times a week they go to one of the soccer bubbles around town to run football drills. Between it all, he squeezes in his school work for the three classes he’s taking this semester.
“As soon as I get home, I make some food and I’m pretty much asleep,” he laughs.
He’s putting in the work for sure. Does he really think he has a shot at the NFL, though?
It doesn’t really matter. He’s looking at this tryout as a freebie. He knows most of the folks who will be watching have never seen him play and have no idea what a McMaster is. He figures he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Besides, Vandervoort admits that back when he started at Mac he never thought he’d even get an invitation like this. He was just trying to earn playing time in the Canadian university game. Which is why it isn’t just recently that he’s been going all-out. The truth is, he really hasn’t taken more than a couple days off in a row since the end of his second year.
Lately, he’s been refining his technique for the stuff he’ll be doing at the combine. Specifically the bench press. He did 17 reps of 225 pounds last time out. Twenty is roughly the benchmark for a receiver. He’s not worried. He’s sure adrenalin will push him over the top.
But after this, he’ll take some time off, right? Let himself have a real break for the first time, in forever? Let his body chill for a few days?
Not so much. The CFL’s combine is a month later. By Monday he’ll be back in town. By Tuesday, he’ll be back in the gym.
He can rest when he’s retired.
Danny Vandervoort got the 2016 season off to a great start with this catch against the U of T Blues.