Mac footballers set to test professional waters

Matthew SewellIt was a good day for the men in Maroon and Grey, as five members of the McMaster football team – offensive lineman Matt Sewell, defensive lineman Ben D’Aguilar, receivers Michael DiCroce and Spencer Moore, and defensive back Michael Daly – were selected in the Canadian Football League’s draft of Canadian players.

Because of their National Football League aspirations, highly rated Marauder prospects Sewell and D’Aguilar saw their CFL stock slip slightly. Despite having signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, Sewell was selected with the eighth pick in the first round by the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argos. The two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport All-Canadian was rated as the fourth-best prospect in the final player rankings distributed last march by the CFL Scouting Combine. He will attend the Titans’ mini-camp on May 9.

Sewell was pleased that, despite his NFL interest, the Argos remained committed to having him play in the Double Blue.

“It was nice to go where I did,” said the Marauder lineman. “You want to be picked as high as possible, and with the interest from the NFL, there was always the possibility of dropping down. I was really glad that it worked out the way that it did, and that the Argos decided that I deserved to go eighth.”

His selection by Toronto appeals to the Milton native, whose family will be well within driving distance should he end up in the Argos lineup.

“It’s huge to be able to stay close to my family,” said Sewell. “If I play in Toronto, it will save everyone a ton of travel money.”

Toronto’s message to the young lineman was simple: a congratulations and an indication that the Argos will be closely watching his progress in Tennessee.

Ben D'Aguilar (Photo: Aerial Promotions)

Barton high school grad Ben D’Aguilar (Photo: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

The 2012 Metras Trophy winner as the Outstanding Lineman in CIS football, D’Aguilar was picked by Calgary with the fourth pick of the second round (13th overall). The Marauder defensive lineman wasn’t surprised that the Stampeders wanted him.

“Calgary has always been interested in what I was doing, even going back to my third-year. It’s kind of funny that I shot a TSN commercial last year and was wearing a Stampeder uniform, and now they draft me.”

Rated as the seventh best Canadian prospect in the final set of rankings, D’Aguilar was pretty sure his draft position would slide because of his NFL opportunities.

“I told everyone I was going to explore every option so I expected to fall because teams wanted to see what I was doing,” said the lineman. “Otherwise, I think I would have been one of the first picks in the first round.”

A mini-camp invite from Tampa Bay was rescheduled to later this month and the Hamilton Barton high school grad is slated to attend the New York Jets mini-camp in Newark starting May 12. Despite having the chance to audition in front of NFL coaches, D’Aguilar says he will evaluate his status through the next few weeks before deciding how long to chase the NFL dream.

“The Calgary coaches have told me they see me as a special teams contributor, and eventually becoming a pass rush specialist,” said D’Aguilar. “It’s very nice that they showed their interest in me.”

Mike Dicroce (Photo: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

Bishop Ryan grad Mike Dicroce (Photo: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

Receiver DiCroce, Ontario University Athletics Most Valuable Player in 2011, became the third Marauder draftee, after being selected with the second pick of the fourth round (29th overall) by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

A fired up DiCroce could not contain his enthusiasm at the selection.

“I’m beyond excited,” said the receiver. “I’m just so happy they decided to give me an opportunity and I can’t wait to get out there and show what I can do”

The former CIS All-Canadian and Hamilton Bishop Ryan grad wasn’t surprised that Winnipeg called his name.

“They were the first team I interviewed with and were very supportive about what I had done and my potential.”

As the sixth receiver taken, DiCroce says it stung a little to see five players picked ahead of him at his position.

“People at Mac know I play with a chip on my shoulder, so I’ll be motivated to show those other teams they made a mistake not picking me.”

A player who flew under the radar of CFL talent evaluators was Marauder receiver Spencer Moore, taken in the fifth round by Saskatchewan. When contacted by McMaster Athletics, he said his initial reaction to being drafted was shock.

“Up until a week and a half ago, I had no idea that I was on anyone’s draft board so this is a total shock. I didn’t attend any combines so this is a surprise but I’m so happy to get the opportunity.”

There was a hint of interest from the Green Riders when the team receivers coach contacted Moore last week.

“They said they see me as a possible fullback or H-back, maybe line-up at tight-end sometimes, and play on special teams.”

Still digesting his draft status, the graduate of Hamilton’s St. Jean de Brebeuf high school can’t wait to get to Rider training camp.

“I’m ready to take whatever comes along and do my best. If it doesn’t work out this year, I’ll be back at McMaster to play my final year so that’s not too bad.”

Defensive back Mike Daly was the final Marauder to grace the draft board, being selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with the first pick of the sixth round (45th overall). Daly was overjoyed with his selection, and had approached the day with no expectation.

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to think coming into today,” said the defensive back. “I was just sitting and watching people go, and taking it all with a grain of salt.”

Prior to the draft, the Tiger-Cats had called him to inquire about his health, and Kent Austin phoned Daly personally after the selection to welcome him to the Ticat fold.

“[Austin] told me to keep working as we move toward camp, that this is just the beginning,” said Daly. “He welcomed me to the family and it’s pretty cool.”

Daly was proud to be selected alongside his teammates, and suggested that his happiness for them matched his own pride in being picked.

“Seeing the other four guys go, that’s part of the experience,” said the defensive back. “Having those guys as teammates at Mac and good buddies, growing up with them and playing with them, I’m just as happy for them as I am for myself.”

His selection gives Daly the opportunity to remain in Hamilton, and to play for the team he grew up supporting, a fortunate bit not lost on the Marauder.

“Anywhere that I went would have been cool, but having been around this city and having been a Ticat fan and part of the culture of such a great football city, I’m blessed to be here,” said Daly.