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Rams defensive tackle Charles impressive at CFL combine

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The Canadian Press
3/23/2013 7:43:18 PM
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TORONTO -- Defensive tackle Stefan Charles was very good Saturday at the CFL combine. A little too good, actually.

The six-foot-five, 324-pound Regina Rams star posted an impressive 37-inch vertical leap before representatives of all nine CFL teams -- including Ottawa, which returns to league next year. But Charles and Calgary Dinos defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh were forced to have their reaches re-measured when some scouts questioned the accuracy of their jumps.

Both results were ultimately confirmed as the six-foot-four, 290-pound Gaydosh posted a 33.5-inch leap. This was after posting a personal-best 36 reps in the bench press, second-best among the 55 participants.

However those results weren't accidental. Both players spent months training specifically to perform well in the combine and impress CFL officials leading up to the league's draft May 6.

"Many years ago no one trained for the combines, they just showed up and tested," said Mike Gough, who put Charles and Gaydosh through their paces this off-season at his facility, Athletic Edge Sports in Brandenton, Fla. "Now, weeks and months go into preparing these athletes for the CFL and NFL combines.

"This is just the final product of their preparation and development. It's not fun at all."

Athletes typically spend anywhere from six-to-10 weeks at Gough's facility, participating in twice-daily workouts. They work on combine-specific events but also perform drills under the watchful eye of position consultants in addition to receiving interview preparation and mentoring.

"For many of them, their first couple of weeks are very rough in terms of what their bodies go through," said Gough, a Toronto native. "But in the end they see the results they're looking for and as they perform in combines like this they see all their hard work and weeks of preparation pay off.

"We do a lot of speed and movement work, we teach them how to run. Many of these kids have never been taught properly how to run efficiently and maximize their speed potential. We put a lot of emphasis on that."

Gough also takes a morbid glee in pushing players to their limits. A former football player at Concordia, Gough routinely posts pictures online of athletes on their knees or hunched over, vomiting.

"I really push the athletes hard, I really expect a lot from them," Gough said. "I often say to the athletes if they can't handle this they're never going to handle the pro ranks.

"It's a good barometer of where they're at mentally and makes them mentally tough for pro football."

Gaydosh admits his early acclamation to Gough's training methods was difficult.

"My first day there I threw up three times doing an upper-body lift," Gaydosh said with a chuckle. "He got me out of my comfort zone pretty quickly.

"He doesn't do it to be mean or malicious, he does it because it's what he does and he knows it's going to get you better. I knew coming in that was probably going to happen and I accepted it and prepared to move on as quickly as possible."

Charles, though, refused to give Gough the satisfaction of seeing him lose his lunch.

"I wasn't one of those guys," he said proudly. "I might've crawled a bit after the leg workouts but I didn't vomit."

But Gough said his training methods are radically different from those traditionally implemented by football players.

"A lot of training at school is strength-based and we do a lot of strength work as well but we also train a lot of movement," he said. "We help these guys get faster and more explosive.

"The biggest difference is the training we're doing is very intense, it's mandatory and they have to do it and we're pushing them all the time."

Gaydosh, for one, willingly accepted Gough's approach.

"I had to change it and do what (Mike) asked because he's the expert," Gaydosh said. "I'm always looking for a way to improve my training . . . because it can get stagnant sometimes and you can stop seeing the growth.

"You've got to change it and keep shocking your body with something different and keep it guessing."

For Charles, his toughest adjustment was Gough's approach to lower-body workouts.

"Those leg days, man," Charles sighed. "We had legs three times a week and he had us doing some crazy things.

"He'd run us into the ground . . . a lot of reps."

But both said the approach worked.

On Saturday, Gaydosh's 36 reps in the bench press beat his previous best of 31.

"(Gough) worked on my breathing for the bench press, a proper jumping technique for the broad jump, getting your knees up and tucking through," Gaydosh said. "For the vertical, jumping up and looking at where you're jumping.

"Your foot position, whether your hips are opening up for the shuttles. I instantly saw an improvement so it gave me encouragement to keep going."

Added Charles: "My 40 time has improved as have all my jumps. Overall, it was a good experience."

Gough has operated Athletic Edge Sports for 13 years and also served as a strength coach with NBA's Toronto Raptors and major league baseball's Cleveland Indians. He has trained baseball, hockey, soccer and NCAA football players but admits he has a soft spot for Canadian-born football players.

"I really enjoy helping the Canadian athletes improve because I find their training has been limited and they have a huge window for improvement," he said. "I have a huge passion for helping these Canadian kids."

Concordia defensive back Kristopher Robertson was the top performer in testing Saturday, posting best efforts in the vertical (43 inches) and standing broad jump (10 feet 5.5 inches). Bishop's defensive lineman Elie Ngoyi topped the bench press with 40 reps, tying him with Laurier running back Mike Montoya for the second-most in event history.

In 2011, Laurier offensive lineman Mike Knill hit 47 reps.

The combine continues Sunday with the 40-yard dash being the marquee individual event before players don pads for one-on-one drills.

Football (Photo: Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
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