The number of foreign imports in the NFL is significantly less than the other major sports. After all, it's called American football for a reason. However, a closer look reveals several players, past and present, from our neighbor to the north. Currently, you'd find Canadian imports on several teams (or looking for new teams in free agency) including wideouts like Nate Burleson and Austin Collie or offensive linemen like Danny Watkins or Austin Pasztor.
The 2014 NFL Draft will likely introduce one more to the ranks of Canadians in the NFL with the addition of prospect Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of McGill University to the eligible player pool. The talented offensive lineman turned heads recently at his Pro Day in Montreal, and the top-ranked Canadian prospect is a potential mid-round selection at this point.
A call from the Green Bay Packers interrupted our interview from the outset, yet Tardif was meek and polite and asked if he could take the call. On the field, his demeanor changes with a high-energy output that "plays through the whistle," he says. There was another interruption before we finished, a sign of just how quickly teams are warming to his potential. It's something the lineman will have to get used to in the days to come.
How often is your phone ringing these days?
Before my Pro Day I had one visit scheduled with the Cardinals, but since then, my phone just keeps on ringing. It's always a team wanting to fly me in, so it's a great opportunity for me. I'll be able to talk to the coaching staff and let them know how passionate I am and also how much I know about football. It's a great opportunity since I wasn't at the NFL Combine.
Were you wanting to go the NFL Combine?
The big question mark was whether I was going to get an invite or not. Finally it didn't work out, but right after that we decided to schedule a Pro Day. Since I was getting a lot of attention after the Shrine game, things started coming up. So I don't think it really that big of a deal because it just gave me more time to train for my Pro Day.
How long have you wanted to play pro football?
I've played football for maybe eight years. When you play football, you want to be the best, but I didn't think I had a chance to play in the NFL until maybe two years ago. Before that, I was playing defensive end and I switched to the offensive line only two years ago. After that, I started to play some really good games.
What made you switch positions? Was that your college coach's call?
I had a discussion with my coach at that point in my career and he told me that I had the foot quickness to be on the o-line but maybe not the speed to be on the d-line. I think it was the right fit for me. I don't take credit at all. I also love the strategy behind the o-line and the teamwork. Not that the d-line is selfish, but I love the teamwork and strategy and concepts on o-line. I think I'm a smart player and I love those things on the offensive side of the ball.
Were you upset at first about having to switch?
No, not at all. It was for the need of the team and I want to help my team to win. It's about where coach thinks I would fit the most. I don't have any regrets about the switch.
How does your experience along the defensive line help you on the other side?
I think it helps you to notice some cues from your opponent. I mean, if you have more pressure on his hand or less pressure on his hand or the angle leans more upfield or more toward the quarterback, you can get a cue and know what's going on whether they'll twist or something. It helps when you move from d-line to o-line to know those things.
What questions are you getting most from NFL teams?
The question marks are about my game film. I think I was dominating on my game film, but the question mark is the competition I play against, so they don't really know what the competition level in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) is like. I think I have the attributes and the athleticism to play, but they're not able to compare me to other players because they don't know the level of my opponents. I understand that.
How have you been answering them?
I just repeat to them that I'm athletic enough and my Pro Day numbers were really good and that I've only been playing o-line for two years. I think you guys call that upside? [Laughs] I'm coachable. I'm a smart guy and I'm able to learn concepts pretty quickly. I love to compete. Maybe they're not able to grade me from my film, but one thing they can notice is that I go after everything. I play through the whistle. That's something you cannot teach, I guess, so that is good for me. That's what I told them.
It sounds like you had a great Pro Day. Does it feel good to have that finished?
Yeah. [Laughs] I've been training for that for so long that I just wanted to be done with it. I knew pretty much what my numbers were going to be, and I hit those numbers. So I'm happy with that. My biggest stress was position drills, but I think I did decently. But I'm glad I'm done with that, because I can focus now on football-specific stuff instead of track and field. If I'm training to run a 40 all winter, I'm not going to be a better football player. Now I'm just happy to go back to football. [Laughs]
How many teams have gotten in touch with you so far?
I think I've done maybe 20 interviews. Now I have six visits and I think there were nine teams that showed up at my Pro Day.
Who are those six teams?
I'd love to get your thoughts on Draft weekend. Do you have expectations there?
My expectations have changed a lot over the course of a year. I went to the East-West Shrine Game thinking I would love to be signed as a free agent. Then when it went well, I thought I would love to be drafted. But the only thing I care about right now is getting into training camp and having a chance to compete this summer and make my spot on the roster.
By the way, how many mispronunciations of your name do you get in these interviews?
[Laughs] A lot. But at the same time, I probably pronounce your word different with my accent. I don't really care. If anything, you could call me Larry and it will work out pretty well. [Laughs]