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Canadian offensive lineman Justin Senior taking low-key approach to NFL draft

Senior taking low-key approach to NFL draft

Justin Senior isn’t putting his life on hold for the NFL draft.

The 22-year-old Montreal native is projected as a late-round selection, but he won’t be at a lavish draft party glued to the television anxiously waiting to hear his name called.

“I’ll probably be in the gym Saturday,” the Mississippi State offensive tackle said. “I’m just a guy looking to get to work.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still plenty to do.”

The six-foot-five, 331-pound Senior tops the list of Canadians who could be late-round picks or priority free agents this weekend. The draft begins Thursday in Philadelphia with the opening round, followed by the second and third rounds Friday.

The final four rounds go Saturday.

Other potential draftees include: Laval tight end Antony Auclair of Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que.; UCLA defensive lineman Eli Ankou of Ottawa; and Manitoba offensive lineman Geoff Gray of Winnipeg.

Simon Fraser linebacker Jordan Herdman, who played in the Senior Bowl, could also join an NFL team as undrafted free agent. Twice the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s top defensive player, the Winnipeg native holds GNAC records for career (428), single-season (165) and single-game (26) tackles.

Senior was a three-year starter at Mississippi State, capturing the 2016 Kent Hull Trophy as the state’s top offensive lineman. He’s also the top prospect for CFL draft May 7.

It was a hectic off-season for Senior, who played in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 before competing at the NFL combine. He also participated in Mississippi State’s pro day before having a private workout with the Houston Texans.

“Honestly, yes it’s been a long process but I’m honoured to have had these opportunities,” Senior said. “It would be surreal (to be drafted) because I’ve always watched the draft and never thought I’d ever be in the picture.

“But to know I have a chance to have my name called is just crazy, it’s amazing.”

After months of being tested and interviewed, Senior can’t wait to learn where his football future lies.

“I’d love to be on a team again, to have teammates and kind of have a goal,” he said. “I’m not really thinking about the draft . . . I’m just thinking about what I’m going to do when I show up to camp Day 1.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

It’s also been a whirlwind off-season for Auclair. After helping Laval win the Vanier Cup, the 23-year-old played in the East-West Shrine Bowl before auditioning for 17 NFL scouts at his pro day.

Then the six-foot-five, 257-pound Auclair, who’s the seventh-ranked CFL draft prospect, visited 10 NFL teams. Agent Sasha Ghavami said Auclair will watch the NFL draft with family and friends in his hometown.

“I think he’s done everything he has to in order to get consideration to be drafted,” said Ghavami. “I’ve spoken to many teams, they all have him on their board so we’ll see . . . I’m confident (Auclair will be drafted).

“It (NFL draft preparation) is a crazy experience full of ups and downs. But it’s a fun time to be a football player and you have to feel privileged to be in that situation.”

Gray started three seasons at Manitoba, seeing action at guard and tackle. He played in the East-West Shrine game before attracting eight NFL teams to his pro day.

One of those teams, the Green Bay Packers, invited the six-foot-six, 315-pound Gray to Wisconsin for a visit. Gray is the CFL draft’s third-ranked prospect but his agent, Darren Gill, said all the mechanical engineering major wants is a chance to play in the NFL.

“I think he’s shown he belongs in a group of guys who’ve earned draft consideration,” Gill said. “He had a strong season, strong Shrine game and excellent pro day and now the process will take us wherever it does.

“He’s looking forward to a chance to prove himself and having gone through this process at every step, I think he’s felt actually more confident that he does belong. Once he gets that opportunity, he feels he’ll be poised to go in and compete . . . and to me that’s what matters most.”

The six-foot-three, 325-pound Ankou, the CFL draft’s second-ranked prospect, appeared in 38 career games at UCLA, registering 91 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. He posted 31 reps in the bench press at the Bruins’ pro day along with a 26.5-inch vertical jump and broad jump of nine feet seven inches.

Ankou reportedly worked out for the L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers and Dallas Cowboys and visited the Indianapolis Colts and Packers.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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