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Cardinals take Canadian Adams in third round of NFL draft

Isaiah Adams Illinois Isaiah Adams - The Canadian Press

Months of preparation and indecision ended for Canadian Isaiah Adams on Friday night.

The Arizona Cardinals selected the Illinois offensive lineman with the seventh pick of the third round, No. 71 overall, of the NFL draft. Adams, of Ajax. Ont., earned the distinction of being the first Canadian taken in this year's draft.

“Man, I could not stop screaming," Adams told reporters when asked what was his immediate reaction to being selected. "I couldn't even stop shaking.

"I didn't realize it was real, man. I'm sitting there watching every pick go by and I'm just like, ‘Man, I don't know when my time's coming.’ It was a surreal moment. I'm so thankful and so grateful.”

Adams has certainly taken the long road to the NFL.

After finishing high school in Ontario, Adams began his college career at Wilfrid Laurier before heading to Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kan. Adams spent one year there then enrolled at the University of Illinois, where the six-foot-five, 320-pound player spent the last two seasons.

“It's just been a lot of hard work, a lot of believing in yourself when no one else did," Adams said. "Just always looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and not really (being) worried about all the outside noise.”

Adams made 25 straight starts at Illinois (14 games at left guard, 10 games at right tackle, one game at left tackle). But NFL Network's draft guru, Daniel Jeremiah, feels Adams is a better fit at guard in the NFL.

"Playing inside … he's more comfortable in there and that's where his future lies," Jeremiah said.

Adams participated in both the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and NFL combine following his collegiate career. His offensive line coach in Alabama was Chris Cook, the Cardinals assistant offensive coach.

"He (Cook) got to see me work for a full week and kind of knows the player I am and how much this game means to me," Adams said. "I love the system and I love what they do.”

The NFL draft will conclude Saturday with the final four rounds. That means Canadian tight ends Theo Johnson and Tanner McLachlan, and tackle Anim Dankwah will have to wait until then to hear their names called.

The six-foot-six, 260-pound Johnson, of Windsor, Ont., appeared in 45 games over four seasons at Penn State, recording 77 catches for 938 yards and 12 TDs. Last season, he registered career highs in receptions (34), yards (341) and touchdowns (seven — tied for team lead) en route to earning an honourable mention All-Big Ten selection.

Johnson participated in both the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.

The six-foot-five, 244-pound McLachlan, of Lethbridge, Alta., enjoyed a record-setting tenure at Arizona, surpassing Rob Gronkowski for most career receptions by a tight end (79). He recorded 45 catches for 528 yards and four TDs in 13 games last season to earn All-Pac 12 honourable mention.

McLachlan began his college career at Southern Utah in 2018 before transferring to Arizona. Injury prevented McLachlan from participating in the Senior Bowl but he did perform at the combine.

So too did Dankwah, of Brampton, Ont. The towering six-foot-eight, 353-pound tackle spent the past five seasons at Howard University. He appeared in 39 games and was a three-year starter at left tackle, earning first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honours this pasts season.

Another player hoping to be drafted Saturday is Qwan’Tez Stiggers, the CFL’s top rookie last year. The six-foot, 197-pound cornerback had a team-high five interceptions and 56 tackles in 16 regular-season games with the Toronto Argonauts.

Stiggers finished high school in 2020 and had committed to Tennessee’s Wayne College on scholarship. But when his father died in September 2020, Stiggers fell into a deep depression and didn’t attend school.

Eventually, with help from his mother and fiancée, Stiggers returned to football in 2022, playing in the Fan Controlled League, a seven-man indoor circuit. His coach was John Jenkins, a former Toronto offensive assistant who recommended Stiggers to the CFL team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.