CFL

Marauders' DL D'Aguilar set to impress at CFL Combine

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The Canadian Press
3/21/2013 2:08:57 PM
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TORONTO -- Ben D'Aguilar won't hold anything back this weekend.

The McMaster Marauders defensive end will attend the CFL combine eager to display the quickness and tenacity that made him Canadian university football's top pass rusher last season. But the colourful 23-year-old will also let his personality shine through in interviews with league officials.

"I like that they get to know what everyone is all about, that's pretty sweet," D'Aguilar said. "I like answering questions.

"They'll see I'm hilarious. I'm definitely confident, but there's a difference between cocky and arrogant where it's just inflated but I'm actually a confident, self-made man."

D'Aguilar and the 53 other prospects undergo medicals Friday before testing begins Saturday in such events as the bench press and vertical jump. On Sunday, players will run the 40-yard dash indoors at Varsity Stadium and don pads for one-on-one drills.

D'Aguilar is very much a free spirit with a sharp wit and good sense of humour. His honesty is very refreshing in today's era of political correctness but could prompt some to label him eccentric or quirky.

That's fine with Jim Barker, the GM of the Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts.

"Quirky never scares you off," Barker said. "There are some great players who are a little bizarre, we have a bunch of them on our team that are out there.

"That doesn't make them bad, just different. Guys have to love to play. You look for guys that playing football is the most important thing in the world to them."

D'Aguilar certainly qualifies, having dreamed of a pro career since he was a youngster. He understands the importance of the combine -- where CFL officials are anxious to see and hear how prospects react to being outside their comfort zone -- but isn't overwhelmed by it.

"I'm not nervous at all, it's just another step on the ladder," he said. "All that stuff isn't a big deal to me because I feel like football is the biggest deal and all this other stuff is trivial at times but I'll do what I've got to do.

"I'm big on that whole thing of just take life as it comes. Many times when you pressure yourself to get crazy numbers you do worse."

That approach worked for D'Aguilar earlier this month at an NFL regional combine in Tampa. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.72 seconds and 36-inch vertical jump, both solid figures for a six-foot-two, 240-pound player.

D'Aguilar will have another chance to impress officials south of the border next month in Dallas at the NFL Super Regional combine, an invitation-only event involving the top performers from the other regional events.

But a good showing this weekend would only solidify D'Aguilar's CFL stock.

"We place a lot of emphasis on it," Barker said of the evaluation camp. "It's as important as anything we do because a team's strength is its Canadian talent and you want to find not only the right physical mix but also the right mental mix.

"The whole key to drafting in the CFL is to pick guys that have a chance to make your team . . . we'll be looking for those guys."

D'Aguilar was a one-man wrecking crew last year, posting a Canadian university-record 12.5 sacks. He added 28 tackles (26 solo) and a forced fumble to help McMaster make a second straight Vanier Cup appearance.

That earned D'Aguilar the J.P. Metras Trophy as Canadian university's top lineman, the first Marauder to win the award. The CFL's scouting bureau took notice, moving D'Aguilar up to No. 5 on the top-15 prospect list after making him No. 10 to start the season.

Speed is D'Aguilar's forte as his quickness off the edge creates challenges for bigger, slower offensive tackles.

"Ben's the fastest kid on my football team," said Marauders head coach Stefan Ptasek. "He's big, fast, strong and explosive like no one else in the draft."

D'Aguilar could contribute to a CFL team immediately on special teams while learning the nuances of the pro game. Once ready, D'Aguilar would give the club roster flexibility being a Canadian at either defensive end or linebacker, positions often manned by Americans.

"That flexibility is invaluable," Ptasek said. "If you watch Ben play, when you see the lights come on and he's completely confident and comfortable, you're blown away by the plays he can make.

"I think the CFL has to look at him longterm and recognize once they get him into that comfort zone he is incredibly unique."

Ptasek said there's much more to D'Aguilar than meets the eye.

"The young man you get to know if you can get him in an environment where he's completely comfortable is actually not quite as flamboyant," Ptasek said. "He's a pretty grounded young man and I think very highly of him.

"He is a worker. He has been blessed with a lot of natural ability but has busted his butt to be where he is today and it's hard work that has got him prepared to be one of the top picks in this year's draft. If you invest time in Ben D'Aguilar, it's time well spent."

D'Aguilar will be one of four Marauders at the combine, joining offensive lineman Matt Sewell, receiver Michael DiCroce and defensive back Michael Daly. Sewell is the No. 2-ranked draft prospect behind Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo, who won't be attending.

Other top prospects not participating are UConn defensive lineman Jesse Joseph (No. 8), Virginia defensive linemen Brent Urban (No. 9), Iowa offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan (No. 10), Florida receiver Stephen Alli (No. 12) and Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Kalonji Kashama (No. 15).

Seven of the nine top prospects taking part will be linemen.

Joining Sewell on offence will be Eastern Michigan's Corey Watman (No. 7) and Regina's Brett Jones (No. 11). D'Aguilar, Calgary's Linden Gaydosh (No. 3), Regina's Stefan Charles (No. 4) and Eastern Michigan's Andy Mulumba (No. 6) headline the defensive line corps.

The CFL draft is May 6 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats selecting first overall. D'Aguilar could be a future selection by then should he be taken in the NFL draft April 25-27 or sign as an undrafted free agent.

"Growing up that (NFL) was the dream, I'm not going to lie," he said. "Since I was seven watching the Buffalo Bills with my pops, I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to play in the big leagues one day.'

"The Bills are my favourite squad and have many of my favourite colours so I'm partial to them. But honestly, I just want to play professional football."

D'Aguilar would be just as happy in the CFL, with Hamilton being a natural fit even if it would mean D'Aguilar spending his rookie season at the University of Guelph, an OUA rival. The Ticats play at Alumni Stadium this year before moving into a new Steeltown facility in 2014.

"My favourite animal is a tiger and I have tiger tattoos," he said. "Not knowing what the future holds, well, you have no choice but to take it as it comes because realistically you won't know until your number comes up.

"It's all over the place but that's what I love about football."

Ben D’Aguilar (Photo: McMaster Athletics)

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(Photo: McMaster Athletics)
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