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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
No draft day drama
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - To the surprise of no one, the Saskatchewan Roughriders selected Ben Heenan with the first overall pick in the 2012 CFL Canadian Draft last week.

Heenan, a 6-4, 310-pound offensive lineman who spent four years with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, was ranked the No. 2 prospect heading into the draft.

The top-rated prospect was Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford. He was the 81st overall pick in last month's NFL draft. The Dallas Cowboys made him their third-round pick.

It became clear that no CFL team would take a chance on Crawford, so the only question as the draft approached was: Would the Riders trade away their first round pick?

The answer, as provided by Riders president and CEO Jim Hopson, was an emphatic no.

The Riders gave that answer in front of 2,000 witnesses. On draft day morning, the Huskies held their annual fund-raising event, cleverly called the Dogs Breakfast.

"I'm pleased to announce that later today, with the first pick in the 2012 draft, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be selecting University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan," Hopson said.

The crowd erupted.

"I had a strong inkling the past few days, but nothing was official until today," Heenan told a media conference.

"It meant a lot to spend today with 2,000 Huskie supporters, my teammates and my family," Heenan, a native of in Grand Coulee, Saskatchewan, said.

Ask any Saskatchewan-born football player, either high school or university, knows what it means to play for the Riders, and you'll get the same answer. Heenan is no different and he says it means a lot to his family.

"They're incredibly happy. For them to be here and share this moment with me, they're pretty stoked about it. It's a special day for everyone."

Heenan said the all the attention he's received from the media and football fans is something he's not used to, especially being an offensive lineman.

"It's a little overwhelming," he admitted. "It sinks in more and more as every hour passes. Being here now (Mosaic Stadium) for the first time and seeing everybody here, it's going to be something special, and something I'll cherish forever."

Being the first overall selection is one thing, but add in the fact that he's a local product, and Heenan will be under the microscope.

"Obviously, there's a bit of pressure that goes with being the No. 1 pick, but nobody has high expectations than myself," he said.

There was a little bit of drama with the next selection.

The Edmonton Eskimos, who had the No. 2 pick, which they acquired in the deal that sent Ricky Ray to Toronto, traded that pick to the B.C. Lions, who selected Eastern Michigan defensive end Jabar Westerman.

The Lions made the move because they had an inkling the Winnipeg Blue Bombers also wanted Westerman. In fact, the Bombers made a trade with Hamilton just before the draft, moving up to third overall.

Mike Benevides, the new head coach of the Lions, was ecstatic after the draft.

"When you look at him as far as athleticism, his size, he's an impact player," Benevides said. "He fits exactly into our scheme. He's exactly what we were looking for. There was a threat that we may lose him, so, we had the flexibility to move up to two to get him."

Westerman, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 285 pounds, is the younger brother of Miami Dolphins defender Jamaal Westerman.

The Lions weren't finished with the first round. With the seventh overall pick, they selected offensive lineman Kirby Fabien from the University of Calgary.

"Kirby is a big, long athlete," said Benevides. "When you look at his measurables, when you look at his length, how he moves, the thing about Kirby is he's a big man -- and he moves and he's light on his feet. He plays tackle and he can potentially grow at that position. But you really like about him is -- because I want intelligent football players -- Kirby is a guy that steps in right away ... He's super intelligent with the game, he's got a lot of football IQ. When you ask his offensive line coach in Calgary, he's the guy that picks it up right away. He controls everybody and he leads, and that's what you want."

Another offensive lineman was selected third overall by the Blue Bombers: Tyson Pencer from Washington State.

The rest of the first round picks were: 4. OL Austin Pasztor, Virginia, (Edmonton) 5. Ameet Pall, DL, Wofford; (Calgary) and 6. WR Shamawd Chambers, Wilfrid Laurier.

Quinlan not drafted

- More than a few eyebrows were raised because not one player from the Vanier Cup champion McMaster Marauders was selected in the draft, including the highly-touted quarterback Kyle Quinlan.

However, this week Quinlan signed a free-agent contract with the Montreal Alouettes.

- Two other draftees have accepted invitations to join NFL teams. Shamawd Chambers and Laval linebacker Frederic Plesius, who was taken 10th overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, will be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles rookie mini-camp.

- Calgary led all CIS programs for the second year in a row, with four players selected. Laval and Sherbrooke followed with four apiece.

Canada West was the most prolific of the four CIS conferences with eight draftees, followed by the RSEQ (7), OUA (5) and the AUS (4).

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

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