The CFL Scouting Bureau (an average of team rankings) released its latest list of draft prospects this week, and one particularly notable figure was Wilfrid Laurier receiver Shamawd Chambers. There was already plenty of buzz about Chambers heading into this year's draft, and he was ranked fourth in the bureau's previous set of rankings, but he rose to third on this list at least partly on the strength of the dominant 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds he posted at this year's E-Camp. In a conference call Tuesday with media and fellow top prospects Ben Heenan (offensive lineman, Saskatchewan, ranked second) and Frédéric Plesius (linebacker, Laval, ranked fifth), Chambers said he wants people to judge him as a football player, not just a speedster, though.
"I want people to start talking about me as a great receiver, not just a great athlete," he said. "You don't want to be looked at only as a good athlete."
Chambers said his athletic ability is certainly an advantage for him, but CFL players in general tend to be solid athletes.
"Everyone who plays this game is a great athlete," he said.
He said his E-Camp performance certainly boosted his stock, but his play in games also mattered.
"It's a combination of both," he said. "I don't want people to suppose the main reason I'm where I am today is E-Camp."
Chambers said the persistent discussion of his raw athletic talent rather than his football ability gets under his skin a bit.
"It bothers me," he said. "At the end of the day, you want to be looked at as a great receiver as well."
Of course, Chambers' raw athletic ability can't entirely be eliminated from the discussion, and that's probably to his advantage to an extent. His stats are solid, but not overly incredible, and the 562 receiving yards he recorded in the 2011 regular season only put him 13th amongst CIS receivers. Chambers is drawing a lot more CFL attention than most of the names above him, though, and a lot of that's thanks to his game-breaking speed. Still, everyone considering Chambers would do well to remember that he's proven himself to be very effective as an actual player, too, both at the CIS level and internationally with Team Canada last summer. Given that the quality of CIS competition and Canadian talent in general is continually improving, it would be a mistake to just write off what players have done at that level. If Chambers winds up going high in this draft, as many project him to, it will likely be thanks to both his athleticism and his proven in-game effectiveness, not just one or the other.
Other notes from Tuesday's call:
—All three of the prospects involved played CIS football, and they had some interesting things to say about the improving quality of that league. Most notable were the comments from Plesius, who spent a year at rising NCAA powerhouse Baylor before heading back north of the border to Laval. He said the experience at Laval wasn't all that different:
"We had good coaching at Laval University, just as good as at Baylor," Plesius said. "So it didn't matter where I played. The coaching staff was really good, they got me a lot better in three years and I think I'm ready to go and play pro football."
—Plesius also added that a lot of CIS players could probably play down south if they found the right fit. "I could say that there's a lot of CIS players that could get (NCAA) scholarships, but maybe the scenario wasn't right for them," he said. "It's pretty good competition in the CIS."
—Plesius made some interesting comments on Laval coach Glen Constantin as well. "He wants to win all the time, he doesn't care about anything but winning, and that's why we're a tough team year after year," Plesius said.
—For more on the other picks' comments on CIS football, check out Peter James' Postmedia article on the subject.
—An overarching focus in the comments from all three players was how professionally they're approaching the draft and how they're looking forward to finding out where they'll wind up so they can get back to football. CP's Dan Ralph has more on that angle.
—There's at least some degree of NFL interest in these guys, particularly Chambers and Heenan. Heenan said the NFL draft occurring a week before the CFL draft takes place on May 3 means it should be pretty obvious if they're likely to go to the NFL or not.
"Anything that may or may not happen with the NFL will be looked at before the CFL draft, so teams will know what's going on," he said.
—For Chambers, this is the culmination of a long-held ambition and years of work.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "It's a blessing from God to even be mentioned in the same breath as these guys on the phone."
When the draft rolls around on May 3, it seems likely Chambers will be mentioned in the same breath as them again. Part of that's thanks to his raw athletic skill, but the guy has proven that he can play as well. If he can bring that to the CFL level, he could be an excellent pickup for any team, regardless of if they're choosing him based off of highlight reels or 40 times.