Ben D’Aguilar likes being different.
So when the McMaster Marauders’ colourful defensive end met with CFL officials during the league’s combine this weekend, he made sure his answers were honest and from the heart and not necessarily sugar-coated for their benefit. It was all part of the six-foot-two, 240-pound Hamilton native’s master plan to be his own man during the two-day audition.
“I love being different, I don’t want to be regular,” D’Aguilar said following Sunday’s 1-on-1 drills at Varsity stadium. “A lot of guys might switch their answers based on who they’re talking to, but I’m always me.
“I’m me over here, I’m me over there, I’m me everywhere. I take it very serious, I’m not just a fun guy all the time. I have a lot of aspects to my personality. Very very multi-dimensional, for sure.”
Test results are important to CFL officials but many put a lot of stock in the 1-on-1 interviews with draft prospects. It’s an opportunity for them to get close and personal with the young men who one day could don their team’s colours.
“The interviews are a huge process for us because we try to get inside the kid and find out what motivates them and whether they’re going to fit into our locker-room,” said Scott Milanovich, the head coach of the Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts. “For me, that might even be the most beneficial part of the weekend . . . the interview is important.”
Teams routinely ask football-related questions during the interview process to test a prospect’s knowledge of the game. But they also want to delve into the player’s personality with sometimes rather pointed questions, which doesn’t bother D’Aguilar in the least.
“The most interesting thing was the interviews, probably, because it’s at the end of a long day, you’re kind of tired and guys are throwing curveballs at you (with) funky questions,” D’Aguilar said. “Strange questions, just trying to make you squirm like ‘Are your numbers chemically enhanced?’ “It was funny, I had fun. Sometimes I played back a little bit. I went with whatever vibe I was getting.”
D’Aguilar spoke to the Argos over the weekend and while Milanovich wasn’t present for the entire interview he said the conversation was sometimes interesting.
“I caught the tail end of his because I was in a different room but, yeah, he’s an entertaining kid,” Milanovich said with a chuckle.
D’Aguilar is very much a free spirit but he’s also a pretty good football player. He registered a Canadian university-record 12.5 sacks last year and claimed the J.P. Metras Trophy as the CIS’s top lineman.
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.
D’Aguilar showed plenty of speed in the 40-yard dash, posting a time of 4.70 seconds that was tops among defensive lineman. He also had 21 reps in the bench press, a solid 35-inch vertical and showed tremendous quickness in the 1-on-1 drills.
“I did all right,” he said. “It took a bit for me to get my feet under me for the 1-on-1s but after the second half I started to get my natural skills back.
“Quick hands, quick feet, it came back real quickly. I just wanted to come out and prove I had what it takes in the interview room, the measurements, all the on-field stuff. I feel I did myself a solid this weekend.”
After participating in an NFL regional combine earlier this month in Tampa, D’Aguilar was invited to a super regional event being held by the league in Dallas next month. While it’s another instance of having to perform under the glare of matter-of-fact football personnel, D’Aguilar said he’ll continue to take such auditions in stride.
“Football is fun,” he said. “I never get nervous with any of these things, the cameras, the coaches.
“It’s just me on the field and I guess that’s a good thing if you’re going to play in front of the bright lights in the big city.”