Ravens rookie John Urschel is one of several Canadians playing an important role in the NFL playoffs.
Urschel was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Due to injuries, the 2014 fifth-round draft pick finds himself in the unlikely position of being a starter in the playoffs.
When the Ravens take on the Patriots, it will be just the fifth start in the 6-3, 313-pound guard’s career.
His fourth start came in the AFC Wildcard game. His play on the line helped Joe Flacco dismantle the Steelers in a 30-17 victory.
“That’s the same Joe Flacco we’ve been seeing all year,” Urschel told QMI Media’s John Kryk after the game. “He’s a helluva quarterback. I’m lucky to be able to protect him. He’s got great leadership. He keeps his cool, man. When he’s confident and calm under pressure, it helps me be calm.”
Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh was comfortable with the prospect of Urschel, who graduated from Penn State with a 4.0 GPA in math, starting vs. the Steelers in a playoff game.
“Urschel has improved throughout the course of the season really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the Capital Gazette before the game on Thursday. “They’re guys who pay attention to detail. They work really hard. They’re smart guys, so they pick things up quickly and they’ve done a really good job.”
Orlando Franklin is another Canadian tasked with protecting a star quarterback.
The Toronto native helped the Broncos get all the way to the Super Bowl last season, but will be questionable when his team takes on the Colts.
“I had a concussion near the end of the season, but I definitely think I’ll be all right,” Franklin said in a Yahoo Canada Sports blog on January 2. “I was able to pass a lot of the concussion tests this week. It’s just a matter of easing back into it. I think I’ll be healthy enough to go. Your body is always going to be sore at this time of the year but you’re talking about a one-and-done game so you have to be able to push through.” http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/orlando-franklin–it-s-playoff-time-and-i-expect-to-be-ready-to-play-223548576-nfl.html
Lasalle Ontario’s Luke Willson, a second-year tight end with the Seahawks, is now playing a more prominent role with the defending champs.
On December 21 Willson, a graduate of Villanova high school and the Essex Ravens, caught three passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. It was a career game that helped the Seahawks to a 35-6 victory on the road over the Arizona Cardinals.
Regina’s Jon Ryan will also be called upon to continue his fine season as the Seahawks punter.
Montreal’s L.P. Ladouceur and Windsor’s Tyrone Crawford hope to help the Cowboys reach the NFL Championship for the first time since the 1990s. Ladouceur has been the team’s long-snapper for close to a decade. Crawford is a defensive tackle.
Crawford was listed as doubtful for the Cowboys game against the Lions after suffering an allergic reaction before the game. A reaction to shellfish caused him to miss practice Friday and fight through the game.
“My throat was really dry,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t really get a lot of air in,” Crawford told Dallas Morning News reporter Rainer Sabin http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/shellfish-allergy-doesnt-stop-dallas-cowboys-dt-tyrone-crawford-from-playing.html/
Rainer reported that Crawford was given intravenous fluids at halftime and was seen throwing up multiple times on the sideline. Before the game, his status was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.
“They told me that they put me as a ‘maybe,’” Crawford told Rainer. “I told them you can do whatever you want. I will be playing.”
Crawford ended up starting, contributing three tackles and deflecting a pass.
“I didn’t eat a lot today,” the former Windsor high school star told Rainer. “I ate two pieces of bread. It was just hard. Still, I had to play. If you guys ever see me eating lobster or shellfish again, please slap me in the head.”