Jake Taylor won’t have to venture far to participate in the CFL’s national combine.
The versatile University of Alberta Golden Bear will be among 87 prospects participating in the combine March 21-25 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. Taylor, of Beaumont, Alta., has done much of his post-season preparation at the facility.
But initially, the six-foot-two, 215-pound Taylor wasn’t thrilled about the combine being in Edmonton. He participated in U Sports’ 2022 East-West Bowl in Hamilton and enjoyed travelling and seeing another Canadian city.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t get to go somewhere else,’” Taylor told reporters Thursday during a CFL video conference. “But then my next thought was, ‘Well, I’ve got my mom and dad, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my friends and I’ll be in my backyard.
“I’ve been training here at Commonwealth … it’s real easy to get my head in that space so I’ll be ready. I’m very lucky for that.”
CFL officials will get to watch prospects perform drills at the combine as well as meet with them as part of their preparation for the May 2 league draft.
Linebacker Michael Brodrique of the Montreal Carabins will also be in Edmonton, aiming to show he can do more than just rush the quarterback. The six-foot-three, 230-pound native of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., had six sacks in 2021.
“For sure, I want to show I can get to the quarterback,” Brodrique said. “But I also want to show even though I weigh 230 pounds I can run as well as any player on the field and cover a lot of ground in passing situations, on special teams, in any situation of a game.”
Brodrique had 32 tackles (4.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and an interception in seven games last season.
Both players are known to CFL personnel. Brodrique was ranked No. 15 on the winter Scouting Bureau of the top-20 draft prospects while Taylor was at No. 18.
Taylor’s versatility was on full display in 2022 when he played defensive back, linebacker and even defensive end. He registered 31 tackles (27 solo, two for loss) in seven games with a fumble recovery, sack and interception last season.
Taylor is anxious to show CFL officials he can play linebacker and in the secondary.
“I’ll be primarily showcasing my DB skills … but I will be hopping in on the drills that I feel are necessary for the linebacker stuff,” Taylor said. “I’m really excited to show I’m a big body and can fill the gap but I also can move like a cornerback.”
A fact of life for most CFL rookies is having to cut their teeth on special teams before becoming starters. Both Brodrique and Taylor played special teams in university and welcome the opportunity to do so as professionals.
“Special teams, for me, have always been important,” Brodrique said. “It’s just nice to be on special teams when you’re running down the field, everyone is looking at you and you’re making the tackle.
“It’s part of the game and it’s a lot of fun.”
Added Taylor: “I think that (playing special teams) is definitely how I’m going to earn my stripes on the team I go to. That’s how I did it at the U of A, I didn’t play defence my first year but I played on every special team and I knew if I wasn’t playing defence then I’m going to make sure I’m going to put someone on their back every single play. I do really love special teams and I’m excited to have a shot at that again this year.”
During the interview process, many CFL officials pose football-related questions to test prospects’ game knowledge. But some will also present hypothetical, sometimes off-the-wall situations to see how the player handles difficult or uncomfortable situations.
“My agent, Rob Fry, sent me a list of some questions they’re likely to ask and what they’ve asked in the past,” Taylor said. “Truthfully, that’s one of the things I’m more nervous about.”
Brodrique said he’s worked with friends as well as a mental preparation therapist regarding potential questions he could be asked. And he has a definite plan regarding how he might answer some of them.
“I just talk about myself and how I can show myself to the world during the interviews,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2023.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press