Mac re­ceiver is tak­ing his NFL shot

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

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.

GARY YOKOYAMA, HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Danny Van­der­voort got the 2016 sea­son off to a great start with this catch against the U of T Blues.

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