The Hot Read: What the What is a Combine?


What the what is this?

The CFL hosts an invite-only combine for draft-eligible Canadian amateur football players. Oh right, the combine part: Players gather for a weekend in Toronto to work out (yes, work out, like lift weights) in front of GMs, scouts and coaches from all nine CFL teams.

Think of it like a job interview… the biggest job interview of your life… that’s a weekend long and takes three months to prepare for… with all the biggest execs in your industry there to evaluate…

So yeah, kind of a big deal.

OK, let me crunch a few numbers…

35 players, three days, and 19 drills, measurements, tests or interviews. What fuels them? 192 litres of Gatorade sports drink and one dream of going pro.


Because records are made to be broken.

Who can lift the most and run the fastest? That’s what everyone’s here to watch.

4.31 is the fastest 40 ever recorded at the CFL Combine by Steven Turner in 2003 (caveat: It was hand-timed – now all 40s are timed electronically, which adds time).

A year ago Shaq Murray-Lawrence broke a five-year electronic record with a 4.41, but Tevaughn Campbell broke that with a 4.355 on the same day.

3.97 is about how fast Usain Bolt could run a 40, and a Cheetah? The fastest animal on earth is expected to clock in at around 2.65.


Bro, do you even lift?

Don’t forget the bench press. Who can press 225 pounds with both arms the highest number of times? Michael Knill’s 47 reps in 2011 look untouchable (but Montreal’s Byron Archambault gave him a good run last year…)


Size matters (or does it?)

Just remember, Brandon Banks is 5-foot-7. Ditto Ryan Smith. Chad Owens: 5-foot-8. Don’t know ‘em? Very small players that are also very good, very fast and highly-talented.

Size doesn’t always matter but it’s worth noting that 123 pounds separate 6-foot-7, 300-pound Jamal Campbell and 6-foot, 177-pound Josh Woodman.


Do you think your mom is attractive?

You don’t have to answer that question, but Austen Lane says he did back at the 2010 NFL Combine.

How is this relevant? Interviews are a big part of the CFL Combine and sometimes teams ask awkward questions, all in the setting of an intense five (or six, or seven, or 20)-on-one interview. The purpose is to get to know you – your character, personality, etc.

So boxers or briefs? Don’t answer that. Here’s an interview we were allowed to film in 2015. And here’s another.


Is this a beauty pageant or a combine?!

Not for the insecure. Picture this: Football players lined up in nothing but their compression shorts, asked to strike various poses. Think Miss Universe but for football players.

Yes – this is a REAL thing and it happens at the combine, and it matters. Maybe ‘beauty pageant’ is stretching it, but the purpose of players stripping down is twofold: one, so the most accurate weight can be taken; and two, so the teams can see players’ builds and body compositions before making the investment on draft day.

Make it any less weird? We didn’t think so.


It’s not over ‘til the big guys run.

The 40 is for everyone at the combine, including all 300 pounds of offensive lineman Jamal Campbell. And not only do linemen run in this event but they are hugely powerful and probably a lot faster than you think.

Last year seven offensive linemen ran the 40, with times ranging from 5.01 to 5.55. There’s a 99 per cent chance they’re faster than you, even if you did play baseball in college. (Reality check: you probably wouldn’t even break a 6.0-flat).


MTL, TOR, EDM (as in the city, not the music).

Don’t forget about the 131 players taking part in regional combines this week. Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton host them, where players compete just for a chance to go to the big one.

It also means some prospects will go through two combines in one week. So ya – think about that while you’re chilling in your sweats this weekend.


It’s a longshot, but…

Why are regional combines important? Ask Argos safety Jermaine Gabriel, who might still be a construction worker if not for some last-minute arrangements to get to a 2013 regional combine in Edmonton…


Who exactly do I need to know?

Taylor Loffler… tore his ALC twice (once in high school and once in College, Boise State) and was ready to give up the dream when UBC convinced him to return to the game.

Mercer Timmis… star Calgary Dino running back and the highest rated RB on the scouting bureau…so there’s that.

Llevi Noel… Former U of T Varisty Blues player who now plays Windsor Canadian Junior Football League. Can you spell Cinderella story?


Okay, okay, we get it…so now what?

Exhausted? So hopefully these guys walk away from all this with a sense of where they stand. Next: the CFL Draft, where they’ll find out whether all that hard work paid off.

Don’t think these guys are sitting on their couches eating potato chips, though, because not long after the draft it’s time to report for camp. Oh, and no one wants to be ‘that guy’ in the news for reporting to camp overweight (like everyone’s favourite baseball Panda)…

So much for the ‘off’ season.

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