By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Being under the watchful eye of people who can make or break a potential pro football career can be stressful, but nerves won’t be an issue for Geoff Gray.
In fact, the six-foot-six, 310-pound Manitoba Bisons offensive lineman expects to enjoy auditioning for CFL and NFL scouts Thursday at his pro day in Winnipeg.
“I’m actually looking forward to it,” Gray said. “I’m not really a nervous person so I’m not too worried.
“I’m not going to worry about super specific numbers I want to hit. I have a rough idea of where I’m at based on what I’ve done in training and obviously I’d like to get around that. But I just want to perform well and do what I can on that day.”
Gray will go through the traditional combine paces — bench press, various agility drills and jumps as well as the 40-yard dash. He’ll also perform specific offensive line drills and whatever movements the scouts wish to see as part of their pre-draft preparations.
The NFL and CFL drafts go April 27-29 and May 7, respectively.
Last year, Bisons defensive lineman David Onyemata drew strong NFL interest on his pro day, performing well enough to be drafted in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints. Last month, Manitoba coach Brian Dobie said he’d spoken to approximately 15 NFL clubs about Gray.
Gray has also opened eyes north of the border. The towering Winnipeg native was ranked fifth on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of the top-20 2017 draft prospects.
Gray skipped last weekend’s CFL combine in Regina to continue with his pro day preparation.
“I’m not trying to worry too much about where I’ll end up,” Gray said. “It’s comforting to know I have options and whatever happens it will work out well for me.”
Gray was a Canadian university first-team all-star as well as a Canada West all-star and its top lineman last year. He never missed a game at Manitoba, starting 30-of-32 regular-season contests plus six playoff encounters, lining up at both guard and tackle.
Gray also has some American football experience. He participated in the East-West Shrine game in January, practising under the watchful eye of NFL coaches the week leading up to the game.
“(Being coachable) is definitely something I showed at the East-West game,” Gray said. “I want to show off my athleticism and explosive power (Thursday).
“I think I definitely have the physical skills and that’s something you have to demonstrate in those events. That’s kind of what they’re there for.”
Gray believes being a competitive Olympic weightlifter has helped with his pro day preparation, both mentally and physically.
“With weight-lifting I’m used to preparing from the competition aspect of it,” he said. “In many ways, how I’m preparing for a combine is very similar to a weight-lifting competition.
“It’s nice to have that past experience of what your body should feel like as you’re tapering down.”
A mechanical engineering major, Gray lightened his academic workload somewhat this off-season to have enough time to train. He expects to return to school next year and finish his degree.
At first glance, Gray projects a calm, cool and personable demeanour. But Gray says he has a nasty side he unleashes on the football field.
“I definitely have good physical strength and explosiveness,” he said. “I think I play with an aggressive edge and that’s something you can’t really teach.
“In practice I’ll be more relaxed and in a learning mindset. But when the game comes, you have to be able to turn that (aggressions) back on.”
Gray admits he has plenty to learn about professional football but is confident he’ll be a quick study.
“A big thing for me, and many college players coming out, is hand placement,” he said. “The pass-rush moves of an NFL defensive lineman are more developed than anything I’ve seen before.
“So it will be learning to read that and the players you’re playing against that I’ll have to work on. But I’m confident it will just be a matter of time.”