U Sports Communications
TORONTO – Antony Auclair, a tight end from Laval University, and Geoff Gray, an offensive lineman from the University of Manitoba, have been selected to represent U Sports football in the 92nd edition of the prestigious East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
East-West Shrine Game website: www.shrinegame.com
Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. EST, live on NFL Network. The game will also be available on the East-West Shrine Game Radio Network, and online as a streaming radio broadcast at www.shrinegame.com/en/GameWeek.
The longest running university all-star game in the United States, the Shrine Game has been played annually since 1925 to raise funds and awareness for the 22 Shriners Hospitals in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Since 1985, U Sports has been represented annually at the event which features over 100 draft-eligible seniors, primarily from NCAA institutions. On most occasions, two U Sports players have made the trip across the border, with the exception of 1985 (1), 2008 (4), 2012 (3) and 2016 (3).
More than 90 players from last year’s game signed with professional teams and more than 70 made final National Football League rosters. On average, around 265 Shrine Game alumni are on NFL rosters each year.
Auclair, a sport intervention student from Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., is the second Laval standout in as many years to receive an invitation to the prestigious event. He follows in the footsteps of offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt - now a member of the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions - and becomes the Rouge et Or’s sixth overall selection, good for second place behind Calgary (12) among U Sports programs.
In four seasons on the Quebec City campus, Auclair helped Laval capture a pair of Vanier Cup national titles, first in his rookie campaign in 2013 and then last month when he was a key factor in a 31-26 triumph over Calgary, catching six passes for 70 yards and one touchdown in the championship match. Praised for his blocking abilities and his superior athletic skills, the six-foot-six, 254-pound senior is also a model of durability as he never missed a game during his university career.
This past season, Auclair had 17 receptions for 229 yards and two majors in eight league contests and was instrumental in the successes of an offensive unit that averaged 36.1 points and 460.6 yards per game. A unanimous RSEQ conference all-star for the second straight year, he added 12 catches for 154 yards and one score in four playoff outings.
Selected to play in the U Sports East-West Bowl last spring, Auclair was ranked 10th overall – sixth among U Sports players - on the prospects list published in September by the CFL Scouting Bureau.
“My goal was to get noticed, but for me, this is only one part of the process that’s getting started. The draft is the ultimate goal and the Shrine Game is only one of the steps,” said Auclair. “It will still be an important event because all the scouts will be on hand. I expect it to be very similar to what we did at the East-West Bowl last spring.”
“Antony caught the attention of the NFL, as up to seven teams asked for information about him. The scouts who evaluated him said it would be good for him to participate in this kind of game because of the level of competition,” said Laval head coach Glen Constantin. “We are honoured to see a sixth member of the Rouge et Or invited to this prestigious classic.
“Antony was a quarterback in CEGEP, so he only started playing tight end here at Laval. He has made great progress, not only as a receiver, but also as a blocker. He has benefited from the advice of Mathieu Bertrand, who helped him work on the technical aspects of blocking. He also improved under Justin Éthier and Guillaume Rioux, and also did a lot of work in the weight room.”
Gray, an engineering student from Winnipeg, also follows in the footsteps of a former teammate as Manitoba was represented at last year’s Shrine Game by defensive tackle David Onyemata, now a regular member of the New Orleans Saints after being selected in the fourth round (120th overall) in the 2016 NFL draft. Overall, the Bisons have sent five players to the winter classic, including three in the past four years.
Gray had a breakthrough season this fall in his fourth campaign on the U of M campus. The imposing six-foot-six, 310-pound guard was not only voted a Canada West all-star for the first time, he was also named the conference’s most outstanding down lineman, a national nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy and a first-team all-Canadian. He started all eight league games for the Bisons, who averaged 34.5 points and 487.1 total yards per contest, including 333.1 yards through the air, good for third in the country.
A member of the Canada West championship team in 2014, Gray participated in last spring’s East-West Bowl and was ranked 11th overall – seventh among U sports players - on the September list of the CFL Scouting Bureau.
“I am grateful to be selected for the Shrine game,” said Gray. “I am eager to represent myself, my team and Canadian university football. It will be an unforgettable experience.”
“Geoff’s selection is well deserved, and is a culmination of his tremendous work ethic and dedication to the game,” said Manitoba head coach Brian Dobie. “As the third Bison selected to the Shrine Game over the past four years, Geoff will represent U Sports and the University of Manitoba with great pride.”
NOTES: The West won the 2016 Shrine Game 29-9 and leads the all-time series 48-38-5... The impressive list of past U Sports standouts invited to the Shrine Game includes current NFL linemen Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs and David Onyemata of the New Orleans Saints, who previously starred for the Regina Rams, McGill Redmen and Manitoba Bisons, respectively... The list also includes former NFLers Mike Schad (Queen’s), Randy Chevrier (McGill), Dan Federkeil (Calgary), Samuel Giguère (Sherbrooke) and Israel Idonije (Manitoba), as well as Hec Crighton Trophy winners Don Blair (Calgary), Kojo Aidoo (McMaster), Jesse Lumsden (McMaster) and Andy Fantuz (Western)... Highlighting the NFL greats who have participated in the event are Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Larry Csonka, John Elway, Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Roger Staubach and Kellen Winslow, as well as legendary coaches such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Jerry Glanville, June Jones, Don Shula, Steve Spurrier and Dick Vermeil... An impressive 72 Shrine Game alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
WESTERN U SPORTS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Year Player Pos. Ht. Wt. University Head Coach
2017 Geoff Gray OL 6-6 310 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2016 Sean McEwen OL 6-3 297 Calgary Wayne Harris
2016 David Onyemata DL 6-4 295 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2015 Addison Richards WR 6-5 205 Regina Frank McCrystal
2014 Evan Gill DL 6-3 280 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2013 Kirby Fabien OL 6-6 295 Calgary Blake Nill
2012 Ben Heenan OL 6-4 310 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2012 Akiem Hicks DL 6-5 300 Regina Frank McCrystal
2011 Anthony Parker SB 6-2 215 Calgary Blake Nill
2010 Jordan Sisco SB 6-1 212 Regina Frank McCrystal
2009 Simeon Rottier OL 6-6 286 Alberta Jerry Friesen
2008 Dylan Barker S 6-4 200 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2008 Brendon LaBatte OL 6-4 320 Regina Frank McCrystal
2007 Jordan Rempel OL 6-6 310 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2006 Daniel Federkeil DL 6-7 285 Calgary Tony Fasano
2005 Nick Johansson DL 6-2 275 UBC Lou DesLauriers
2004 Ibrahim Khan OL 6-4 305 Simon Fraser Chris Beaton
2003 Israel Idonije DL 6-7 285 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2002 Jason Clermont IR 6-1 236 Regina Frank McCrystal
2001 Carlo Panaro OL 6-2 281 Alberta Tom Wilkinson
2000 Kevin Lefsrud OL 6-4 285 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1999 Scott Flory OL 6-4 290 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1998 Bob Beveridge OL 6-6 308 UBC Casey Smith
1997 Ben Fairbrother OL 6-4 305 Calgary Tony Fasano
1996 Don Blair WR 6-4 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1995 Rohn Meyer OL 6-4 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1994 Travis Serke OL 6-3 290 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1993 Chris Konrad DL 6-3 235 Calgary Peter Connellan
1992 Jason Rauhaus DL 6-1 240 Manitoba Scott Spurgeon
1991 Mike Pavelec OL 6-6 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1990 Mark Singer LB 6-0 221 Alberta Jim Donlevy
1989 Brent Korte DL 6-1 225 Alberta Jim Donlevy
1988 Craig Watson OL 6-2 250 Calgary Peter Connellan
1987 Leo Groenewegen OL 6-4 260 UBC Frank Smith
1986 Kent Warnock DL 6-7 265 Calgary Peter Connellan
1985 Tom Spoletini OL 6-2 270 Calgary Peter Connellan