Calgary Herald

Dinos star eager for call at NFL draft

Sean McEwen’s football dreams could come true this week in Chicago

- SCOTT CRUICKSHAN­K scruicksha­nk@postmedia.com Twitter.com/Cruickshan­kCH

All along, he knew better than to break character.

A football fan growing up, Sean McEwen is now taking a crack at joining the sport’s top circuit. The ongoing ride — invitation­s, appraisals, interviews, combines, drafts — is not part of some elaborate fantasy camp. This is how he plans to make a living.

In other words, it’s no time to be starry-eyed.

So, throughout it all, despite the temptation to go all aw-shucks, the Calgarian is maintainin­g his focus. More or less.

Nearly a year ago, McEwen was shocked to hear that the New York Giants of the National Football League wanted him to attend their mini-camp. So, head down, he slogged through three days of sweaty scrutiny in Hackensack, N.J., headquarte­rs of the Giants.

“Everything was so businessor­iented,” he recalls.

But, at the end of camp, when he realized a contract offer wasn’t imminent, he allowed his guard to drop, to get a kick out of his surroundin­gs.

“And it was like, ‘OK, that was pretty cool,’” says McEwen, chuckling.

His giddy reaction is understand­able, given that only weeks before being asked to visit the Giants, he hadn’t even bothered to declare himself eligible for the NFL’s draft.

Now, it seems, he’s part of the machine. Pinch-me moments are over. “It’s cool when you look back on it,” says McEwen, 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds. “But you’ve got to try to stay in the moment.”

His appetite whetted by the Giants’ attention — and his expectatio­ns upgraded — McEwen returned home. Days later, the offensive lineman was selected third overall in the Canadian Football League draft by the Toronto Argonauts.

When autumn arrived, he heaved himself into his fifth and final year with the University of Calgary Dinos.

“Now it’s time to take my game to the next level and see what the next chapter of life holds,” says McEwen, a three time All-Canadian. “I want to see this through as far as it goes.”

By now an intriguing fixture on the NFL radar, McEwen was invited to January’s East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., a prestigiou­s weeklong showcase for dozens of American blue chippers — and a couple of Canadian prospects.

McEwen was in dire need of locker-room introducti­ons.

“I was a little bit on the outside looking in,” says the 22-year-old. “These guys have played against each other, obviously. Some of them came from the same conference, the same school. They at least know a little bit about each other. A lot of them don’t even know we play college football in Canada, right?”

NFL reps, too, were very curious about the broad-shouldered stranger, who, to that point, had only those pad-less workouts in Hackensack as a benchmark. With scouts, there was mix of informal chats and intense conversati­ons.

“They’re just getting to know you as a person,” says McEwen. “Showing that I’m a standup individual is just as helpful as showing them I can play football.”

At Tropicana Field, he played more than half of the Shrine game, all at his natural position, centre. (Suddenly, of course, without a yard’s grace at the line of scrimmage.)

“It was baptism by fire,” says McEwen.

“I hadn’t ever really played American (rules) before, but I definitely got better each day during practices. I think I was able to hold my own (in the game itself ). Definitely, being able to compete with them gave me a big confidence boost and made me realize that this might be a realistic option down the road.”

But that wasn’t the end of auditions for McEwen.

In March, McEwen travelled to the Minnesota Vikings’ facility for one of the NFL’s regional combines. Having participat­ed in the CFL’s version a year earlier, he knew the drill.

“I competed really well there,” he says. “I was super happy with how I did.” All that remains? The actual draft — in which 253 players, over seven rounds, will be selected.

The festivitie­s are slated for Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Chicago.

“I’ll be following it, for sure,” says McEwen, who academical­ly is sitting two classes shy of his math degree.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but at the same time, it’s going to be the culminatio­n of all my efforts in football to this point. It’s just going to be interestin­g to see where I compare with the players from the United States. I think I’m definitely going to be able to — if not get a shot in the late rounds — hopefully get a free-agent contract. It’s super exciting.

“Most people say you only get drafted once, but I have the unique opportunit­y to possibly be drafted twice. You have to look at it like that — that it’s something that doesn’t come around very often.

“So you have to enjoy it and live in the moment.”

 ?? COLLEEN DE NEVE/FILES ?? Sean McEwen stretches with his University of Calagary teammates at training camp last season. The 300-pound offensive lineman, who has been drafted by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, will be watching to see if he’s selected in this weekend’s NFL draft in...
COLLEEN DE NEVE/FILES Sean McEwen stretches with his University of Calagary teammates at training camp last season. The 300-pound offensive lineman, who has been drafted by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, will be watching to see if he’s selected in this weekend’s NFL draft in...
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada