Drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks, Luke Willson became one of six Canadians to land with an NFL team on draft weekend.
Willson, a six-foot-five 251-pound tight end from Lasalle Ontario, became the 23rd Canadian drafted since 1997.
“I had got a phone call at pick No. 157 and when I answered the phone I saw a Seattle area code,” Willson told the Canadian Press after the draft. “I answered it and it was (GM John Schneider) and I actually gave the thumbs up and my family and friends erupted. To be honest, I actually didn’t even watch my selection on TV because I already knew and, besides, I was shaking I was so excited.”
Willson recorded 33 catches for a team-high 425 yards and three TDs in 2010 at Rice. Injuries limited him to nine catches for 126 yards and two TDs in 2012.
After the draft, Regina Rams defensive tackle Stefan Charles (a native of Oshawa, Ontario) and McMaster Marauders offensive lineman Matt Sewell (a native of Milton, Ontario) signed as free agents with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Sewell told the Hamilton Spectator’s Scott Radley. “Everyone dreams of playing in the NFL. I’ll see how that goes and go from there.”
Charles’ teammate, long-snapper Jorgen Hus, signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams.
Defensive lineman and Montreal native Andy Mulumba of Eastern Michigan University signed with the Green Bay Packers, and Laval, Que., linebacker Carl-Olivier Prime (New York City’s Wagner College) signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Ben D’Aguilar, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound winner of the J.P. Metris Trophy as Canadian university football’s top defensive lineman, got a call from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shortly after the draft inviting him to minicamp.
“I’m just trying out,” D’Aguilar told the Hamilton Spectator. “I haven’t signed anything.”
Willson is no stranger to professional sports. The Lasalle native played first base for the Canadian national baseball team in 2008, then signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 and went to spring training with the club before his senior season at Rice.
“My mind is racing and racing and racing,” Willson told CP. “I’ve got a million thoughts going through it, I can’t really pinpoint one. I’m going to enjoy the day but (Sunday) morning I’ll be getting ready. I know I can’t be celebrating too long because I want to go make the team and go there and contribute.”
The 23-year-old excels on the diamond, but has a passion for football.
“Football’s always kind of been my love,” Willson, a Villanova high school grad and product of the OVFL Essex Ravens, told the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker after the draft. “I went the football route and I’m glad I did. I always felt football was the toughest sport to play. Just the beating you take and trying to get as big as you can, but still run as fast as you can.”
“It’s one of those things where it’s the ultimate team game and helped create my love for the game and here I am.”
Willson’s 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds, 38-inch vertical jump, 10 feet two inch broad jump, 4.28 second short shuttle and the 7.04 second cone drill impressed the Seahawks.
“I mean his Pro Day was phenomenal,” Ed Dodds, Seattle’s area scout for the South Central Conference, told the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker. “He ran 4.51 at 200 and whatever pounds. He’s huge and he ran that fast.
“He’s going to be a guy that can give us a down-the-field threat from that tight end position. When you run a 4.5 and you’re that big and that long, I don’t know if he knows it, but he can run. . . . . . Luke has size, has speed and his athletic background,” Dodds told the Windsor Star. “You have to go back and look at the previous year.”