Will Tanner is quickly finding out he’s closer to the Canadian Football League than he ever imagined.
The Halifax native and Acadia Axemen receiver has been in London, Ont., this week preparing for Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s East-West Bowl on Saturday. The event is a showcase of top prospects for the 2010 CFL draft.
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“Up until this point, I haven’t really believed this to be a reality or something I could actually do,” Tanner said. “Coming here and seeing who you’re up against, the best players in the country, gives you a better idea of where you’re at.”
The six-foot-two, 205-pound former Queen Elizabeth Lions standout is coming off a breakthrough season at Acadia. He finished tied for the Atlantic University Sport lead with four touchdown receptions and totalled 303 yards on 19 catches.
Appearing in the East-West Bowl certainly doesn’t mean a player is CFL-bound. Players need strong showings during the 2009 season to get invited back to an evaluation camp in March 2010, when scouts make final determinations.
But it is the first step in the process.
Tanner said the biggest challenge has been shaking the rust off. Unlike many CIS teams, the Axemen didn’t hold a spring training session, so Tanner hasn’t been on the field since Oct. 25 and is now being thrown in front of CFL scouts.
“You get right back into it,” Tanner said.
“You don’t worry about who’s there, who’s watching. I’m getting passes from Benoit Groulx, the Hec Crighton winner, the best quarterback in the country. There’s a lot of talent on the field here and it’s easy to get back into the swing of things.”
Others in the East-West Bowl are Tanner’s teammate Adrian Saturley, a defensive end from Terence Bay, and a trio of Saint Mary’s Huskies: offensive lineman Adam Baboulas, defensive lineman Dan Schutte and linebacker Karl McCartney.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.
“It’s something I hadn’t expected and it’s a real honour,” said Tanner. “Even if I go no further with it.”