Frayed paperwork saves Westerman
Proof of time at Ontario school keeps him on team
A little attention to detail at a time when protocol wasn’t big with Jabar Westerman has meant a second opportunity in the form of a life in football with the B.C. Lions.
The 6-2, 285-pound defensive tackle would not have been eligible for the Canadian college draft Thursday, in which he was taken second by the Lions, had it not been for some diligence on his part to obtain some necessary paperwork from a secretary in an elementary school in his adopted hometown of Brampton, Ont.
The documentation proved that Westerman, who attended Eastern Michigan University, spent two months in Brampton in elementary school in his formative years after being born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.— making him eligible Thursday.
And because he was available, the Lions made a swift draft-day move to trade up two spots past the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to get their man.
It was a bold move by general manager Wally Buono, who was down to only four picks by the end after the swap to get Westerman’s draft slot from the Edmonton Eskimos.
But because they were convinced Westerman is no longer the person he was as a teen, the Lions have someone to groom for the interior of their defensive front.
The light went on for the brother of Miami Dolphins special teams player Jamall Westerman while attending Dodge City (Kan.) Junior College, which he was forced to attend prior to getting into Eastern Michigan because of bad grades.
“I realized I couldn’t breeze by on football,” he said. “I didn’t take the time to put in my schoolwork, but after I did I started to accomplish things and this December I’m going to graduate from Eastern Michigan. I said to myself, ‘You have all this talent, don’t throw it away’.”
But if there were picks made that were considered risky, Westerman was not on that list.
“I haven’t seen tape on a guy like him in a long, long time,” said Lions coach Mike Benevides of Westerman, who said he has no aversions to a career in B.C. despite not having travelled west of Manitoba.
“I think what happens is when a guy has a family member who is around pro sports they can learn. His brother is a big influence.”
Buono assessed one other need despite the draft pick sell-off by also drafting a pair of offensive linemen, Kirby Fabien of Calgary and Matt Norman of Western Ontario. Both players, however, have CIS eligibility remaining and the Lions haven’t had much luck getting picks to return once they leave rookie camp.
It also undoubtedly came as a stunner for the Lions to hear Fabien’s coach at Calgary, Blake Nill, remark about his player while serving as a TSN analyst during the draft.
“He’s laid-back; a little immature,” Nill said.
But having little to show for the last eight drafted offensive linemen going back six years to Jon Hameister-ries and Dean Valli, the Lions had to go shopping, bypassing the chance to fill another void when Laval linebacker Frederic Plesius was still on the board at the end of the first round.
“The whole idea was to continue to build on the strength of our team, which is the line of scrimmage,” said Buono. “Both [Fabien and Norman] physically are already professional offensive linemen. We have time to cultivate them.”
It certainly fit into the theme of a draft in which six of the first seven picks overall play on the line of scrimmage (see chart) but contained a couple of surprises. The top player rated by the CFL Scouting Bureau, D-lineman Tyrone Crawford, wasn’t taken at all as he was taken in the NFL draft last week.