Cameramen fiddled with their tripods and lenses as Matt Sewell neared the media. It's not every day that one has to shoot an interview close up with a towering 6-foot-8, 335-pound offensive lineman.
The McMaster University offensive tackle was both the largest and most highly ranked of the 55 Canadian players who worked out in for CFL general managers, coaches and scouts at the University of Toronto on Sunday in advance of the May 6 draft. CFL teams like Sewell, who intends to prove he can battle speedy pass rushers in the pros. That is if an NFL team doesn't get him first.
He was one of just two Canadians who went to St. Petersburg, Fla., back in January to play in the East-West Shrine Game, an elite invitation-only college-football all-star game that draws pro scouts from all over. He took advantage of a full practice week there with top coaches. Some NFL teams have since asked to see more of his game film.
Sewell is the No.2 player on the list of prospects ranked by the CFL Scouting Bureau, second only to University of Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo, who did not attend the CFL combine. Sewell wears size-17 shoes and stood almost a helmet taller than many of the other linemen there.
"He's got outstanding feet and great size, and he's only going to get better," said Kent Austin, new head coach and general manager of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the team with the first pick in the draft.
The native of Milton, Ont., has played in the Vanier Cup the past two seasons, winning the first one. He watched the blind side for Kyle Quinlan, McMaster's Hec Crighton Trophy-winning quarterback. Sewell hoped to show at the combine that he's quick enough to stay in front of pro edge-rushers, typically the fastest defensive lineman on the opposition.
"I know a lot of teams will look to move tackles inside to guard, but I feel I can play tackle at the next level, but we'll see what they think," Sewell said. "When I got the opportunity to go to Florida, they emphasized to me there that I might not have the technique, but as long as I'm a nasty SOB out there, I'm going to be okay."
Asked to work at all positions on the offensive line on Sunday, Sewell had to take on many defensive linemen likely to be among this year's top five CFL draft picks, such as Linden Gaydosh of Calgary, Stefan Charles of Regina and Sewell's McMaster teammate, Ben D'Aguilar. He said the bunch compares very well to the NCAA linemen he battled in St. Petersburg.
Sewell wasn't thrilled about the results of his physical tests at the combine, mostly middle of the pack among the 10 linemen there, including his time in the 40-yard dash, which was seventh best for his position at 5.45 seconds.
"I wasn't expecting to jump off the board with my testing results," said Sewell, who dominated more in drills. "But I wanted to get a couple of personal bests, and I was about there."
One of the most intriguing performances of the combine was from Concordia defensive back Kristopher Robertson, who wasn't initially invited. He had the top result in three of the tests after earning a late invitation following his impressive showing at a regional combine in Quebec City – one of two such events the CFL started to broaden the talent search. The native of Pickering, Ont. ran the 40-yard dash in 4.423 seconds, had the longest broad jump (10 feet 5.5 inches) and the highest vertical jump (43 inches). Bishop's defensive lineman Elie Ngoyi was tops in the bench press test, benching 225 pounds 40 times, the second highest ever at the combine.
As for Sewell, all eight CFL teams chose to interview with him. Many were curious about his aspirations for the NFL.
"Like I told the coaches, if the opportunity comes, I'm going to take it," Sewell said. "I know it's rare for a Canadian to get a shot there, but I do hope that maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones."