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Western running back Edwards entering CFL combine somewhat under the radar

Western University Mustangs' Keon Edwards straight arms Saskatchewan University Huskies defensive back Charlie Ringland during second quarter action, at the Vanier Cup in Quebec City, Saturday, Dec. 4, 202. Edwards will head into the CFL's national combine under the radar. The Western running back ran for 1,032 yards last season after being a part of the Mustangs' 2021 Vanier Cup-winning squad. But the Toronto native wasn't listed on the CFL scouting bureau list of the top-20 prospects for the 2023 CFL draft. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Keon Edwards will head to the CFL's national combine somewhat under the radar.

The Western Ontario running back certainly earned his chance to audition before CFL coaches, general managers and scouts this week in Edmonton. 

He was a 2022 All-Canadian after accumulating 1,533 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 205 carries (7.5-yard average) and breaking the 100-yard rushing plateau in all 11 games he played. 

But the five-foot-11, 230-pound Toronto native was left off the CFL Scouting Bureau's winter list of the top-20 prospects for the league's May 2 draft.

"Growing up I was never highly ranked," Edwards said. "I'm the type of guy (who's) going to be quiet and work on his own, then try to fight his way out.

"Even coming to Western . . . I remember coaches, players telling me, 'Why would you ever go to a team that has their backs set for the next four years?' I'd rather earn my way up than concede to something that may not be the best choice for me. I've always had to prove myself, I think that's always been my journey."

Sixty-seven Canadian prospects and 21 global players were invited to the combine. The CFL's global draft is also May 2.

Ottawa's Lake Korte-Moore, a six-foot-five, 262-pound defensive lineman at British Columbia, will be the combine's top-ranked Canadian. He was No. 10 on the winter list but the nine players above him, who all played in the NCAA, aren't attending.

The combine will also feature a revamped five-day format, a change from the traditional three-day event.

Prospects report Wednesday for medical testing and measurements. Thursday's schedule calls for individual events such as the bench press, 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jumps.

On Friday, players will participate in the first of three straight on-field practices at Commonwealth Stadium Field House. Each will not only feature individual drills and on-on-one testing but CFL coaches leading positional groups and installing offences and defences.

Edwards likes the emphasis being put on practices.

"I know the combine is what they (CFL officials) like to see from us," he said. "But from a football (perspective), I just think I'm able to show the best of my abilities (in practices)."

Edwards amassed a solid resume at Western. Among his '22 accolades was claiming the Larry Haylor Award as the Ontario University Athletics’ outstanding player after rushing for 1,032 yards and nine TDs on 130 carries (7.9-yard average) in eight regular-season contests.

Edwards ran for 2,653 yards on 373 carries (7.1-yard average) and 28 TDs over three seasons while adding 19 receptions for 228 yards (12-yard average) and a touchdown. Edwards was a '21 second-team All-Canadian while helping Western win the Vanier Cup.

"He's a complete back," said Montreal Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia. "He can pass protect, he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, he can run the inside zone, he can run the outside zone.

"I think he's got the ability to really be an interesting player at the next level. There's no doubt in my mind he'll earn a living doing that the next few years."

Edward said playing for Western head coach Greg Marshall — a former CFL player (Edmonton, 1982-84) and head coach (Hamilton, 2004-06) — has prepared him for what might lie ahead.

"What I learned from him the most is just how to be a man," Edwards said. "I learned a lot from him from the aspect of how to play back and how to make it to the next level."

CFL officials will do more than just watch Edwards and other prospects perform on the field. Teams will also conduct interviews with the players, something else Edwards is looking forward to.

"To me, I always have fun with it," he said. "Growing up, you always wished you were in this position to make it to the next level . . . I know this comes with playing this sport."

Maciocia said he's already had an opportunity to interview with Edwards.

"He's a humble young man . . . he's extremely engaging," Maciocia said.

Edwards is crystal clear about the impression he wants to make in Edmonton with CFL officials.

"I'd say it's my character," he said. "My character is someone that will walk into the locker room, understand my role, know what I have to do as a rookie or first-year player in that organization.

"I'm someone that's always looking to win but at the same time be a good teammate to others. To me, personally, my character speaks for itself. I'm just looking to be the best I can be."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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