CFL

Guelph's Maver can't wait for CFL Canadian college draft

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The Canadian Press
4/26/2010 10:58:27 AM
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Rob Maver can't wait for Sunday.

That's when months of uncertainty will end for the Guelph Gryphons kicker-punter, who will finally know where he'll begin his pro football career when the CFL conducts its annual Canadian college draft.

"I'm getting anxious," Maver said with a chuckle Wednesday. "I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

"It's worse than waiting for Christmas when you're a five-year-old kid."

And not just for Maver, 24, of Brampton, Ont.

"I'm not nearly as anxious as my family," he said. "They're going crazy in a good way.

"My family is moving out to B.C. so I'm not going to have a home base in Toronto and Brampton anymore. Whatever team takes me, I'm going to call that place home so I can fully commit to that team and be there in the off-season working out with the guys so I can be fully committed to getting better. That's why I'm so eager to find out where I will be calling home."

Fortunately, the five-foot-11, 212-pound Maver shouldn't have to wait long to hear his name called. He's ranked sixth among the draft's top-15 prospects according to the CFL's scouting bureau and is the only kicker to crack the list.

He was the only kicker invited to the CFL's evaluation camp in March in Toronto, where Maver quashed the notion kickers aren't athletic. Maver not only participated fully in the drills but bench-pressed 225 pounds 11 times and completed the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds.

But that's no surprise to Kyle Walters, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers special-teams coach who was Maver's head coach at Guelph.

"Rob is a football player that happens to kick the ball," Walters said. "He works out hard, he trains hard, he loves football, he loves practice and helps out wherever he can.

"If he chose to play receiver or defensive back in high school or someone hadn't found out he could kick the ball so far he'd still be playing football at another position, I guarantee you that."

Maver's kicking skills are definitely in demand in the CFL. The Toronto Argonauts, Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats all need either a punter or kicker, creating no shortage of intrigue heading into the draft.

At first glance, Toronto would appear to have the best shot at landing Maver considering it has three picks in the first 11 (Nos. one, eight and 11). Trouble is, the rebuilding Argos -- who had a league-worst 3-15 record last year -- have many needs to address in the draft and can't be guaranteed Maver would be available even at No. 8.

That's because Calgary has the fifth overall selection and is in the enviable position of having a talented roster so it could use its first pick on a kicker. And then there's the possibility of Hamilton, whose first selection is at No. 12, making a deal to move up and take Maver.

Toronto could remove all the guesswork by making CFL draft history and taking Maver first overall. Twice a kicker has gone No. 2 -- David Miller-Johnston to Toronto in 1997, Warren Keane to Edmonton in 2007 -- but neither lived up to expectations.

Maver, though, isn't concerned about where he'll go in the draft.

"In the CFL it doesn't matter where you get picked . . . it's just getting into camp," he said. "I'm the kind of guy I feel very confident this is something I'm going to succeed in.

"Obviously I'd like to go earlier . . . but it doesn't really matter where I go."

Whatever team selects Maver will get a versatile player who can kick field goals, punt and kick off. Two years ago, Maver was Canadian university football's leading punter (46.1-yard average) and last season connected on 13-of-14 field-goal attempts.

"The big thing about Rob is his work ethic," Walters said. "He works as hard or harder than anybody on the football team at Guelph at getting better at his position.

"He knows he's good, he's self confident and on the verge of being full of himself, which isn't a bad thing at his position. It's like a cornerback who had better think he's pretty good because at some point during a game it might not go your way and you just have to believe in yourself. Rob is strong that way in the sense he knows he's a good player and even if something doesn't go his way he's confident it was just a fluke and things will get back on track."

Last year, Maver began working with in Arizona with Gary Zauner, a former NFL special-teams coach who now serves as a kicking consultant. Other notable players Zauner has worked with include Regina's Jon Ryan (punter, Seattle Seahawks), Halifax native Eddie Murray (19-year NFL veteran kicker), Mitch Berger of Kamloops, B.C., (punter with 12 different NFL teams), Sandro DeAngelis of Niagara Falls, Ont., (Hamilton, CFL) and Toronto native Pat McDonald, a former CFL long-snapper now with Seattle.

"I have had a kicking coach before but I think coach Zauner has helped me get over the hump and be pro ready so to speak," Maver said. "He's very good for tuning up your game.

"For punting, getting the ball off quicker, having better hang time better direction and consistency. For field goals, figuring out exactly what your steps should be and how to make all your kicks."

But in Maver's mind, the most important attribute a successful kicker must have is a very short memory.

"The thing teams have asked me in my interviews is how I react to a missed kick," Maver said. "I've always told them first of all I'd want to know what I did wrong.

"As soon as I figured that out then it's done, next kick."

It's a mindset, Walters says, Maver has worked hard to develop.

"When he was younger that really tended to beat him and he'd let it affect his next play," Walters said. "That was a big improvement by him.

"But as his career went on, the down plays didn't happen near as much."

Maver used to believe he was a better punter than kicker but feels now both facets of his game are solid.

"I've just been working equally hard on both and feel I'm comfortable to do either single job or both," he said. "I'm prepared for whatever happens Sunday."

Rob Maver (Photo: Courtesy CFL)

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(Photo: Courtesy CFL)
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