In 2016, 17 NFL teams descended on Winnipeg to observe then-Manitoba Bisons standout David Onyemata go through the paces.
The defensive lineman was drafted in the fourth round by New Orleans and appeared in every game for the Saints this season.
On March 13, 17 NFL teams arrived at Laval University to watch tight end Antony Auclair run combine drills. Hailing from a Quebec municipality with a population just north of a thousand, the 6-foot-5, 256-pound Auclair shined at the East-West Shrine Game and is widely expected to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
NFL Canada caught up with the Notre-Dame-des-Pins native in between NFL team visits to discuss his pre-draft process, advice for youth football players and experience at Laval.
On what the process has been like leading up to Draft:
It’s been great. The Shrine Game went really well. I performed like I wanted to, but then injured myself 10 days before the [Laval] pro day, so it was a little bit harder. Overall, I think I’ve done a good job with this process so far.
On his pro day at Laval:
It was really cool. 17 NFL teams? That was great. I didn’t care as much about the numbers; I just wanted to show them I had character since I had to fight through injury.
On the first time he picked up a football:
I was 12 years old. My best friend showed me how to play and that was pretty much it. I fell in love with the game and wanted to do my best to be the best player that I could be. I think the passion that I had for it made all the work and sacrifices easier.
On his relationship with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif:
He helped me through the process of going through the Shrine Game like he did. He also called me before my pro day to offer encouragement before things got underway. He’s helped me a lot so I’m grateful for that.
On the best advice he’s received from a coach or teammate:
When you have a dream, make the best decisions to work toward that dream.
On players he looked up to as a youth:
Luke Willson. When I was in my first years in college I was looking at him, knowing he was a Canadian tight end. He was someone that I could look up to. He plays a pretty complete game and has been productive for Seattle. When I was younger I was a quarterback and liked the Eagles, so it was Donovan McNabb. I liked his game and the way he played.
On the current NFL player whose game closest resembles his own:
I think the tight end from Houston, C.J. Fiedorowicz. He likes to block as well. I think I’m a good blocker as a tight end and take pride in that. I find guys are up more these days. I like guys who go down and get their hands in the dirt.
On what it was like to watch Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mehdi Abdesmad play each other this season:
It was awesome. I played against Laurent in college, and I played against Mehdi when I was a quarterback so he was chasing me (laughing). The guy almost broke my rib when he sacked me one time!
On his advice for youth football players:
Make good decisions and work toward your dreams. If it means going to bed, go to bed. If it means working out early in the morning, do that. I think it’s important to understand that playing in the pros takes a lot of hard work and commitment. You need to put in the effort to achieve your goals. This is something that I hope youth football players will learn throughout the process.
On what it’s been like to play at Laval:
This is a program where we have to work every day. In the summer, almost every teammate is there to work out. I didn’t want to go anywhere else but there. I thought ‘If I don’t play at Laval, I won’t go anywhere else,’ because I want to play with the best. Every year you compete, every day you compete. It was a great experience.
On what he’s expecting playing in the U.S. to be like after growing up and playing in Quebec:
The culture is different, and things will be in English all the time. I went to Tennessee this offseason just to leave my comfort zone. It taught me a lot, and I think I’m going to adapt well but it might take some time. People in the U.S. love football and I expect it to be a great experience. I will learn so much and it will help me continue my growth as a football player. I’m confident that I will adapt to the different rules very quickly as I demonstrated at the Shrine Game. It will be an awesome experience.
Being drafted or signed by an NFL team would be ________________.