Discrimination of Canadian High School Football Players by NCAA scouts

I am an NCAA Football addict. Despite the fact that I live in Canada, I follow everything in NCAA football from the games, the systems teams run, the pitches recruiting coordinators give to prospects and I even watch the highlight tapes of athletes in their sophomore and junior year of high school. Call me cocky or passionate, but I don’t think there are many people that have followed Casey Clausen, Cedric Benson and Cedric Houston since High School. With years of observing the football scene, you begin to notice trends that occur often – everything from Florida having the best ‘athletes,’ to Clemson securing many top South Carolina recruits (a rarity for a non-top programs to get recruits to choose them over Florida ect) to the more recent trend of the emergence of Arizona prospects. However, one thing has been bothering me for well over 1 year…it is the OBVIOUS discrimination of top Canadian Football players by American universities – specifically Division 1 universities and colleges.

Discrimination? Yes… its not that these football players being “overlooked” like many Texas 3A prospects, but scouts recognize these Canadian kids have talent and they hear about them through the grapevine, but do not offer any scholarships – and this has been clearly been shown in many sports. While this discrimination used to occur for many sports, a recent influx of Canadian short-distance sprinters heading to top sprinting schools demonstrates that US schools have finally anted up (I know many schools like Texas Tech, Texas and Michigan are only looking now). However, this trend continues in Canadian football. The majority of these D1 schools recognize the talent in Canada, but they only offer bursaries which are joke because of the estimated international price of $40,000 a year at schools like UCLA.

Football in Canada is ALOT older then you expect…

Football is no doubt America’s sport, but it does not mean that other countries cannot play with them at a high level. I am not ignorant enough to believe that there are many talented and athletic players in the US that are not offered in High Schools in the States (starting with former Wake Forest LB Jon Abbate who produced on the field and in the weight room in HS – not offered by many schools). However, many common stereotypes have plagued Canadians. D1 schools stereotype Canadian football players because there is lower level competition (which is true) that Canadians cannot make the adjustment to the NCAA, which is completely unfounded. This major assumption about lack of adjustment is also seen when NFL scouts feel that D1-AA football players cannot play in the NFL – tell that to Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State, Terrell Owens of Tennessee – Chattanooga, Mike Furrey of Northern Iowa (2nd in NFL in 2007 in receptions with 98) or others who didn’t play with the powerhouses. The difference is D1-AA players are still eligible to get drafted or can try out with a team thus revealing that they still have a shot. On the flip side, Canadian high schoolers who are not offered by D1 universities, have no options and are forced to play below they’re level in Canada.

 

Jerry Rice should of gone to a top US school but he wasn’t given a fair chance. He still managed to get a second shot at the next level. So why aren’t Canadian High School Football players given that same chance?

 
So what makes these kids so special from any other player from States?

Your right! Canadians do not put as much as an emphasis on football as our fellow neighbours do, but many of these kids have the size, speed, talent, work ethic, production and character to play in the majority of Division 1 schools in the States. Canada does not have the money to put into weight rooms, coaching and administration like most American schools, thus, the majority of these kids have a higher ceiling or more potential then a lot of Americans. They not only do not know how to work out properly (yet still put up impressive weight room numbers) but they face terrible coaching at many levels!

 

So the next question is… if these kids are being recognized by the D1 universities, why aren’t they offering?

Simple: Supply and Demand

If American universities know that a certain Canadian prospect is not getting any interest at all in the south despite the talent, why would they offer a fair deal – a full scholarship. They think they will just get the recruit by offering them a bursary or half a scholarship. A perfect example of this “supply and demand” is displayed by a Vancouver DE named Trey Henderson in 2007. With perfect size at 6’4, 270, good speed and great production, Henderson was like many other top Canadian prospects, getting meager interests from only US schools that were generally close to him. In the end, Washington State offered him a full ride and he committed to them. One day before signing day, the University of Southern California offered him a full scholarship because they did not get a top California D-lineman and Henderson switched his commitment (USC did the exact same thing when they offered in 2006 with a Canadian DB named Peter Carriere who did not academically qualify – now at Cincinnati). While this shows that Canadians are looked at as an unfortunate ‘second-option’ by many schools, it also demonstrates that USC CLEARLY recognized that this kid could play ball at a high level in the States. They knew he had the prototypical size and speed, but they also knew they had no competition in terms of other schools offering him, so they offered him at the last second.

Trey Henderson, Vancouver Prep star TE/DE

This ‘discrimination’ is evident despite many Canadians showing that they can compete in the States if given the chance. Eastern Michigan’s WR Eric Deslauriers was the #1 QB in Canada and did not get much offers but ended up switching to WR at EM. Despite being triple teamed, the 6’4, 205 WR pulled incredible numbers including 3,200 yards and 27 touchdowns in 4 years. Then there is Brian Bulcke who is a DT I played against who started as a true freshman as a LB at Stanford!. Brian would not even be the best LB in our summer league in 2006.

Brian Bulcke. Started as a true Freshman at LB.
 

Or there is Rams starting SS OJ Atogwe who only got into Stanford from his Herman HS (Windsor, On) at the last second. Or starting UCLA QB Patrick Cowan, or NFL free agent RB Jon Cornish (Kansas), or Gurminder Thind who is projected to start at OG this year for South Carolina. Or CB Matthew Black who was widely considered the best defensive back in Canada but he only got offered by Saginaw Valley St. He is now the #1 CB as a Sophomore and rumors continue to surround him that the University of Michigan is looking at him. The list goes on and on and on. When given a fair shot, many of these Canadians have demonstrated that they can play in D1 – and many of them were not even the best players in their leagues ect.

STL Rams’ starting FS OJ Atogwe only got into Stanford at the last second while UCLA QB Patrick Cowan had to go to a US school to receive a scholarship
 

Hands down the most intriguing example of “supply and demand” and a demonstration of how a Canadian can play in D1 football is Jerome Messam. Messam at 18 years old, was a legit 6’3 ½, 235 pound RB who ran 4.4/40 yard dash. Anyone who knows me personally can state that I am incredibly strict when it comes to Running Backs (as I am one) and 40 yard dashes, but Messam is legit.

See where the humour comes in, is that despite posting 2000+ yards and 26 touchdowns in 9 games and tearing up every team that got in his way in High School, he barley got much attention compared to players in the States. Even after the #1 Canadian recruiting named Ron Dias (think Tom Lemming in Canada) stated:

“Jerome Messam is the top running back I have evaluated in 20 years of scouting high school football. He is a special talent. He has great size and strength and runs a 4.5 on his worst day. Jerome Messam is one of those rare athletes that has the potential to play any position on the field except for quarterback. He is a high school player with an NFL body. If he was in the states, he would be mentioned as one of the top players in the country.”

Still… not too much attention.

Only after he destroyed Team USA for 308 yards rushing and 2 TDs in the 2005 NFL Global Championship, did Messam start to get noticed. Michigan St, UConn, Arkon, Kansas St offered. Rutgers and South Carolina then followed (two of the typical programs that used to look at Canadians – not much anymore because of Rutgers dramatic rise and USC’s hiring of Spurrier), but after failing to qualify academically, Messam no longer became a Rutgers commit. Fair enough – academics are his problem and he has only himself to blame. So after spending the past two years in North Dakota State College of Science, where he again destroyed his competition, Messam became Rivals #2 JUCO rated prospect in 2007 and Southern California, Arizona St, Kansas St, Rutgers, Temple, Colorado, Washington and many more offered. He had over 20 offers. Maybe you missed it. Running Back posts freak legit numbers (even by NFL standards), potential and productivity in Canada does not get much publicity south of the boarder. Then proves himself with the ‘big boys’ and Pete Carroll opens his eyes. Not bad for a RB who was widely considered by many as the possibly the 3rd best RB in Toronto in 2005. No, I am not kidding.

Jerome Messam. A good Running Back, a better Athlete.

The fact of the matter is Canadian football players can compete. Toronto’s arguably best RB in 2005, Charlie Houghton (5’10, 185 pounds, 4.4 speed – All Canada selection), was looked at by Syracuse, Wisconsin and Connecticut but none naturally offered. After attending Andover Prep in Maryland (where he started slow then rushed for over 2000 yards – hey, I thought Canadians couldn’t play with Americans?), the only school that offered him was Georgetown. This past year, as a true freshman at Georgetown, he was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year despite not starting till the last 4 games. The other RB possibly ahead of Messam in 2005, Matt Henry, is another question mark. For three years, the 5’10, 210 pound Henry (315 pounds on the bench, 4.53 speed – at 17 years old) beat everyone in sight. He was a Toronto legend, but when it came down to it, was not apparently offered by any one big. While Henry does not have blazing speed, of the 500+ RBs I have scouted for High School, NCAA and NFL, he has top 10 vision hands down. He is also extremely tough to bring down, and has very very good footwork for a guy his size. He is now splitting time as a true freshman at the #1 school in Canada.

Running Backs Charlie Houghton (left) and Matt Henry (right) should be playing for top schools in the States

 

WAIT… how do we know if football players north of the border are not being looked at because they have slow 40 yard dashes?

Two reasons – DE J’Michael Deane (Newtonbrook) and LB Karl McCartney (St. Andrews College). J’Michael Deane was a 6’6, 285 pound DE who in 2005 was getting major interest from the States for his freakish size and productivity, but no major offers. He then ran a blistering 4.8 electronic at a local combine and Michigan St then offered – he is now playing there. Likewise, LB Karl McCartney was known throughout his league as one of the better LBs, but of course that garnered him no attention from D1 Schools. He then ran a 4.3 electronic as a 215 pound LB and MSU also offered. Though he did not academically qualify, it shows that D1 schools are clearly recognizing when great 40 yard dashes are run then the scholarships come, but when All-Canada honours are offered on the field, it is seen more as a joke and no D1 schools look. D1 schools discriminate against Canadians and it has become so much of a joke that productivity on the field practically is ignored. Its once thing to not recognize that they cannot play at the level, but the above examples demonstrated that many of the players can play with the best.

 

So… what needs to be done?

People need to throw their preconceived notions of Canadian football players out the window. As many of you know, Hockey is the major sport in Canada. Hockey in Canada = football in Texas. When a player from the northern States like Minnesota, North Dakota or Michigan feels they can play with Canadians in hockey, no one from Canada ever makes a comment even though Hockey is one of the smaller sports in the States. Many Canadians firmly believe that many top hockey players from the States can play with them – this is exemplified through the US and Canadian colleges. However, where the problem lies is that there is a double standard. Canadians are willing to accept Americans in hockey, but Americans and D1 schools write off any Canadian football players that produce on the field.

This exact same double standard was seen with a former teammate of mine – WR Michael Mizerski. On paper, he is possibly the greatest WR you will ever see. He is 6’1, 208 pounds (under 8% Body Fat), runs a 4.4 (4.53 electronic – 200m champ for Toronto) and can put up 225 pounds, 15 times. Maybe you don’t follow football, but that’s NFL size, speed and strength – at 17 years old! So while top schools like Michigan, Arkansas, Western Michigan, Akron, Syracuse, Washington St all were interested in him, none of them offered him a scholarship. Even despite the fact that is highlight tape is better then 99% of WR’s:

WR Michael Mizerski Highlight Tape

The funny thing is the highlight tape you just watched was against summer football teams (the best out of the high schools congregate to these summer teams – 20+ summer teams in Ontario, hundreds of High School teams. So the level of competition was fairly good, yet he still managed to be a two time WR MVP in the league. On the field, Mizerski was 3 times the player he was on paper, incredibly energetic and a great humble leader (2 time captain) and he always saved his best for the 4th quarter – he produced!

Physically and mentally superior to kids his age, but that didn’t justify him the opportunity of receiving a scholarship

Now compare that to the #1 American WR in 2007 out of Dunbar HS in Washington (now at Illinois) – Arrelious Benn (Yes I know it’s a bit presumptuous to compare the two, but with identical body types, it shouldn’t be hard for a case study). Benn played in low level competition as exemplified by his area – Washington DC – and highlight tape. The two (Mizerski and Benn) are very identical in that they both are 6’1, 205+ pounds, run 4.4’s, played relatively equal level of competition, destroyed the league, very physically strong for their age, high character players and are deep threats who have solid hands to go short. As well, Benn’s highlight tape is not nearly as impressive as Mizerski’s. So what’s missing? Benn was offered by every school in the States.

Get the drift…

You can have all the size, speed, strength, character you want, but as soon as you show a Canadian passport, people write you off. I’m not going as far as to say that there is a “conspiracy,” but it is blatantly obvious that D1 scouts ignore Canadian players. Its always the same American schools that are interested and a few of them offer scholarships:

Akron, Penn St (rarely), Central Florida, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Michigan St, South Carolina, Utah St, Idaho, Buffalo, Rutgers (not anymore)…

While there are some good schools up there, there is no question that’s programs with larger budgets like Illinois, Indiana (Rivals.com 97th ranked class in 2007) and others that are consistently fighting with others top schools for territory in recruiting. Teams like these cant compete. This was witnessed in 2007 with safety Jerimy Finch, the state of Indiana’s top recruit who appeared on the national coverage for the first time in years. The University of Indiana shockingly grabbed him and held him for months. That is until national champ Florida Gators offered him a scholarship and he switched 1 day before signing day). Rather then fight a losing battle, these teams these and others like Purdue, Iowa State, Duke, Cincinnati, Temple should look toward their northern neighbors (who are extraordinarily close) for some superb football players. (Michigan, Ohio St and Florida don’t need to look to Canada because they get all their top players from their state).

So who are some future players to look out for?

There are many but two that stand out right away and both are worthy of playing at top D1 schools are DB 2006 graduate Jamaal George, 2007 grads RB Eddie Houghton (brother of forementioned Charlie) and LB John Surla and 2006 grad LB Matt Adetuyi (a Toronto legend). George is the prototypical hard-hitting DB who can play both Safety or CB and with 4.29/40 yard dash laser he has the speed. The only questions concerning this 18 year old is possible attitude questions. But hey, Pat Lazear, a LB from the class of 2007 was charged with armed robbery after he drove the getaway car but he still received offers from West Virginia, Alabama, Nebraska, NC State, Ohio St and Oklahoma. So I hardly believe a few character concerns will worry a scout.

Despite the fact that Eddie Houghton plays the same position as his brother Charlie (RB), same height (5’10) and both led their teams to city championships (Metro Bowl), they have different styles. Charlie is a speedster while the 200 pound Eddie relies on natural RB instincts and footwork. NCAA scouts have already looked at Houghton but he may suffer the same fate as Charlie and end up going to a smaller school despite his talent.

Eddie Houghton… where is he headed?

Houghton on Television (Charlie is mentioned)

John Surla, a former Niagara Spears LB who is now19 years old and now plays for the Victoria Rebels in the Canadian Junior Football League, is another name to look out for. Despite being 1-2 years older then most HS graduates, the 5’11, 210 pound Surla could make enough of a splash in his league to garner interest from NCAA scouts and STILL be young enough to be on par with many US kids his age or 1 year older. He is a 2-time Team Canada selection and is a smart football player.

Surla – definition of the word ‘Football Player’
 

The more intriguing prospect is Matt Adetuyi. Adetuyi is now 6’0, 225 pounds with around 10% BF and at 18 years old is the hardest hitter and best player I’ve ever personally played against (and Ive played with guys that have gone to Michigan St, Akron, and other places on full rides and a LB Ricky Foley, who was cut by Baltimore Ravens in the last training camp). He is a very big hitter and a very good run stopper and what makes his phenomenal is that he is an amazing athlete period – let alone for a LB. He has the footwork and quickness of a CB and when he was 17 tears old, he put up 225 pounds 11 times. The only place he needs to work on is over-pursuing and possibly pass coverage. His highlight tape (16-17 yrs old) really does not do him justice (summer football league again):

Adeutyi on Television
Adeutyi Highlight Tape

Matt Adetuyi (pictured at 215 pounds). A Toronto Legend.

Ultimately, something needs to be done…

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