Adam Thibault is out to prove a point.
The Laval Rouge et Or defensive back/kick returner will compete at an NFL regional combine Sunday in Baltimore anxious to show Canadian university players are every bit as athletic as their U.S. counterparts.
“I think sometimes athletes here block themselves from showcasing their skills in the U.S., I don’t know why,” Thibault said in a telephone interview prior to his departure Friday. “I just told myself, ‘Why should I be like everyone else and be kind of scared to go to the U.S.?’ “Every day when I was preparing for (CFL) combine I saw my numbers were close to many of the top players who were at the NFL combine. The numbers don’t lie . . . I have confidence that, yes, I’m a great athlete but I’m also a good football player as well.”
Thibault tested well last weekend at the CFL combine in Toronto. The six-foot, 195-pound native of Quebec City had the top 40-yard dash time of 4.454 seconds and also finished first in the left and right agility drills as well as the shuttle.
Thibault, who was ranked No. 13 on the CFL scouting bureau’s list of the top-15 prospects for this year’s draft, also posted a personal-best 18 reps in the bench press – tops among defensive backs. But Thibault didn’t compete in the one-on-one drills due to a hamstring injury he says has healed significantly to allow him to run in Maryland.
Thibault’s priority was competing at the CFL combine but started thinking about also auditioning south of the border roughly a month ago. With the Baltimore event being the lone NFL combine scheduled following the CFL’s, that afforded Thibault the opportunity to do both.
At Baltimore, Thibault will run the 40-yard dash, T-test and do the vertical and broad jumps as well as football-related drills. He hopes to post results good enough to get invited to the super regional combine next month in Detroit.
Thibault switched from receiver to defensive back before last season. Thibault said he played on both sides of the ball prior to arriving at Laval and admits he missed being on defence.
“The decision was mine but I didn’t want to do it without first talking to my coaches and fortunately they were really open-minded about it,” Thibault said. “Going to Laval as a receiver was a good decision because I learned a lot but I think it (switch to defence) was just a matter of time because I missed the defensive part of the game.
“I won’t lie, I love hitting people. I love the aggressive part of football so if I can do that on special teams and defence and on every play get to hit people and make tackles, that’s the most exciting thing for me as a football player.”
Marc Fortier, Laval’s defensive co-ordinator, said he expects Thibault to put up solid numbers in Baltimore.
“He’s going to test well,” he said. “He’s got all the numbers to do well in that kind of event.”
However, many CFL officials are still trying to determine what kind of defensive player Thibault is and exactly where he might fit given he spent most of his university career on offence. Thibault was a role player for Laval’s defence last year, making one start due to injury while recording 21 tackles (16 solo), a sack and two forced fumbles in eight games.
“In the CFL, the easiest position to play him would probably be free safety but it all depends on what kind of player you want there,” Fortier said. “If you want a field general, someone who’s going to make all the adjustments, I don’t know if he’s ready for that because I don’t know if he has enough experience.
“But I also think he’s got the physical abilities to do that . . . he just needs reps. If you have the time to develop him, he can be a good player for you but unfortunately here we didn’t have that time. He had a role on the team and he did everything we asked of him.”
Thibault capped his Canadian university football career in style as Laval downed Calgary 25-14 in the Vanier Cup. It was the school’s fourth straight final appearance and third victory.
Thibault said he spoke to seven CFL teams last weekend and was pleased none discussed him switching back to offence. While Thibault is intent on strutting his stuff at the NFL combine, playing football in Canada remains very much on his radar.
“They were all focused on my defensive and special teams skills so I guess the switch was the right decision,” he said. “I believe I am a defensive player.
“I’m really happy about (CFL scouting bureau) ranking . . . but I just want to play football, I want to show my skills. Regardless of where I am drafted, what matters is arriving at camp and showing what you can do to play in the CFL. That’s my goal, nothing less, to play this year.”