The calculated gamble Antony Auclair took on himself is paying immediate dividends.
The Laval Rouge et Or tight end performed admirably at his pro day Monday in Quebec City despite a hamstring injury. Afterwards, Auclair said he’d been invited to visit with five NFL teams leading up to next month’s draft in Philadelphia.
Auclair’s agent, Sasha Ghavami. said Tuesday eight teams now want to meet with his client and wouldn’t be surprised if that number swelled to double digits.
“It was kind of unorthodox to do it that way (compete despite injury) but it worked out for the best,” Ghavami said. “The scouts were all very happy with how he did and were really impressed with his toughness.
“One thing that kind of opened my eyes came Saturday when a team asked Antony in an interview if he’d ever been hurt. Antony has been lucky in that he’s never really been injured in football so he’s never had to battle that adversity per se in his career. I think (Monday) was a good test of that.”
Auclair hurt himself while training less than two weeks ago. Ghavami said the 17 NFL scouts and one CFL representative who attended Monday’s workout were informed of that development prior to the session.
While doctors indicated the threat of Auclair further aggravating the injury was low â€” and even if he did, he’d likely only need six weeks to fully recover â€” having Auclair run through drills when not completely healthy was still a gamble. That’s because many pro scouts put a lot of stock in combine results as part of their pre-draft evaluation of college prospects.
Despite the injury, the six-foot-six, 256-pound Auclair posted a 33 1/2-inch vertical jump and nine-foot, nine-inch broad jump â€” both solid indicators of explosion and lower-body strength. The 23-year-old native of Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., also registered a personal-best 22 reps in the 225-pound bench press and a respectable 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds.
But in a time when healthy players skip bowl games to protect their draft stock or choose not to test because of physical ailments, Auclair’s actions spoke volumes. His decision not only showed perseverance and toughness but also character and dependability, important intangibles sought after by football personnel because they’re qualities that can’t be taught or coached.
“Scouts told me the same thing,” Ghavami said. “They were like, ‘You did the best thing in the world to let him run because even if he posted a 4.9 (in the 40), this showed toughness, this showed character.’
“And that’s going to go in the report and go back to staff meetings. While some people will say, “Well, yeah, he didn’t run fast,’ the scouts will say, ‘Yeah, but he was hurt and you should’ve seen him. He still ran, he still went out.’ “
In 2014, nine NFL teams â€” including Kansas City â€” attended McGill offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s pro day. Duvernay-Tardif was drafted in the sixth round, 200th overall, by the Chiefs and last month signed a five-year, US$41.25-million contract extension.
Auclair had 17 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns last season with Laval and capped his collegiate career with six receptions for 70 yards and a TD in the school’s thrilling 31-26 Vanier Cup win over Calgary. After being named the second-ranked prospect for the 2017 CFL draft in December, Auclair headed to the East-West Shrine game the following month in St. Petersburg, Fla., speaking with 25 NFL clubs there.
This year’s tight end pool is considered a deep one, headed up by Alabama’s O.J. Howard. Projected as either a late-round pick or priority free agent before Monday’s workout, Auclair only solidified his draft stock with his gritty performance.
“I hope so because he deserves it,” Ghavami said. “He’s so fun to work with and yet so challenging but a positive way because he’s as stubborn as a mule.
“He jumped well and moved well coming out of the gate (Monday) but before the 40-yard dash Antony looked right at me and said, ‘Sash, I’m hurting.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to run,’ but he just walked away and right to the 40. It was like, ‘I’m doing it, I don’t care.’ He wants to do the best he can, that’s just the way he is.”
Auclair said an NFL team taking a flyer on him will get a hard-nosed competitor. But Auclair admits he’s taking a very cautious approach to the draft, not allowing himself to get his hopes up about hearing his name called during the proceedings.
“They’ll get a player that’s aggressive and likes competition.” he said. “I think I showed that a little bit Monday, that I can play hurt and I’m tough.
“I haven’t really taken the time to think about (being drafted) but I am very glad to have this opportunity. I think I’m lucky because not many players get this chance.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press