Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON – The Canadian Football League Combine means different things to different players.
At one extreme are the stars that have long topped scouts' lists, who know they will hear their name called on Draft Day, no matter what happens at the Combine.
And then there's players at the other end of spectrum, for whom the Combine means everything to their pro football aspirations.
You can certainly count Connor McGough among the latter.
"I felt like I wasn't an individual who was talked about a lot, and that's ok," says the Calgary Dinos defensive lineman.
"I just wanted to make sure coming into the Combine to do what I can to help open up some eyes."
McGough did that and then some, making such an impression last month in Regina that he cracked the final CFL Scouting Bureau Rankings, at No. 20, heading into the CFL Draft on May 7.
"I didn't want to compare myself to anyone else, I just wanted to do what I could do.," says the fourth-year Dino from Medicine Hat. "'Stay in my own lane' was the theme of the Combine, just focus on what I know I can do and how I can perform, and it was just cool to be recognized. To me it shows what I did at the Combine really helped, it really showed what I had, so I was really happy to see that I was able to make (the rankings)."
The six-foot-two, 250-pound McGough demonstrated both strength and speed at the Combine, bench-pressing 23 reps at 225 pounds, clocking 4.736 in the 40, 7.14 in the three-cone, and 7.25 in the shuttle.
"I did everything I wanted to do," he says. "I wanted to put up good numbers in all of my testing and not lose any one-on-ones, so I felt like I did really good in all of those categories and I was
able to show my true potential and open some eyes on my ability."
It perhaps should be no great surprise that McGough has flown under the radar, given his origins in Medicine Hat. The southeast Alberta city, about a three-hour drive from Calgary, has produced just a handful of CFL players over the years, including current Hamilton Ti-Cats long-snapper Aaron Crawford, who coached McGough at Crescent Heights high school.
"There's only a select few individuals that were able to play in the CFL, so just to be able to join that category is very cool, and I think it's great for Medicine Hat," says McGough, who graduated Grade 12 in 2013.
"There's not a lot of individuals who have moved on, so it's great to show that it doesn't matter where you're from...if they want to do it, just through hard work they can do it themselves."
A two-time Canada West All-Star (2014 and 2016) McGough made the Second Team All-Canadian list in 2014. He amassed 11 sacks over the past three seasons, including a team-leading four in 2014. McGough also has a pair of Hardy Cup championship rings, 2013 and 2016, from his Dinos tenure, which has turned out to be a highlight of his life.
"I remember my first game here after my recruiting trip, immediately within the first five minutes I felt like family, it felt like home – everyone's very welcoming" he says.
"The family aspect and the past players that have been through the program that have helped guide and mentor me - even players I haven't played with - it's a continuous mentorship, like a brotherhood."
CW CFL PROSPECT RANKINGS
For the second consecutive season, Canada West will release a list of the top conference prospects ahead of the CFL Draft.
Coaches from all six Canada West football programs are set to rank the conference's draft-eligible prospects. The rankings provide a glimpse into how Canada West coaches view the top players from around the conference.
The 2017 Canada West CFL Prospect Rankings are set to be released Thursday, May 4.
Over the last four years, a total of 52 Canada West football players have been selected in the CFL Draft.