Alouettes' coach fashioned solid CFL career after being drafted last in '08

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TORONTO — Luc Brodeur-Jourdain understands and appreciates where Anthony Vandal is.

Vandal, a six-foot-three, 290-pound offensive lineman at Sherbrooke, was the last player taken in the 2023 CFL draft Tuesday by the Toronto Argonauts. That could suggest Vandal is a longshot to crack the defending Grey Cup champions' roster but Brodeur-Jourdain is living proof draft position doesn't determine a player's pro readiness.

In '08, Brodeur-Jourdain was taken with the last pick by the Montreal Alouettes. After returning to Laval for his final collegiate season, Brodeur-Jourdain made Montreal's roster in '09 and played 11 CFL seasons, winning two Grey Cups.

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Last year, the San Francisco 49ers drafted Brock Purdy last overall. After Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were hurt, the former Iowa State quarterback went 7-0 before being injured in the club's 31-7 NFC championship game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Chad Kelly, Toronto's projected starter, also went last overall to the Denver Broncos in 2017.

Brodeur-Jourdain, 40, of Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., has also fashioned a pro coaching career. He retired in 2019 to become Montreal's assistant offensive line coach before being promoted to offensive line coach in 2020.

"The only thing you control is how you're going to prepare for your first training camp," said Brodeur-Jourdain. "I prepared myself for the opportunity because opportunity is something you have no control over.

"Any time you get a rep, it's not about focusing on not making a mistake, it's just knowing the thread is thin and you have to show you understand the concepts and not repeat the same mistakes over and over. Whether you're drafted first overall or with the last pick, this is how it works with football. It's the learning curve, your physical abilities, your will and desire to be part of the team that force the hand of the organization to keep you around."

Brodeur-Jourdain was the last of 14 offensive linemen selected in 2008. Montreal also took Boise State's Andrew Woodruff (second round) and South Carolina's Gurminder Thind (fourth) before Brodeur-Jourdain.

"I didn't know that," Vandal said of Brodeur-Jourdain's career path. "I'm hoping to repeat what he did."

Vandal, 25, was the 11th offensive lineman taken Tuesday and second by Toronto, which selected Houston Baptist's Edouard Paradis in the fifth round. However, Vandal, of Sorel, Que, isn't worrying about that.

"It's special for me because being drafted was my goal since I started playing football and it's a great honour, especially by the Toronto Argonauts, the reigning Grey Cup champions," Vandal said. "It was a longer wait than I anticipated but was well worth it.

"For me, I've got my ticket to training camp. I'm going to go ball out and prove, first of all, Toronto made the right decision and then to everyone else I'm a good football player. I controlled nothing (Tuesday night) but as of right now, I control my own destiny."

Vandal enjoyed a solid career at Sherbrooke (2018-2022). He was the top rookie in the RSEQ (Reseau du sport etudiant du Quebec) in 2018 and a three-time conference all-star while being named a second-team All Canadian in 2022 .

Sherbrooke's offensive co-ordinator/offensive-line coach is Dominic Picard, a former CFL offensive lineman who played with Toronto (2009-11).

"We had Anthony rated higher on our board than where we took him," said Vince Magri, Toronto's assistant GM. "He's an accomplished player, he's technically sound, he has polish to his game, he's big, he's nasty and is very smart.

"He just needs a little more physical development and the times we considered drafting him that was one of the concerns. But Dom Picard played under Kris Sweet (Toronto's offensive line coach) and was a guest coach with us in the past so Anthony will be familiar with some of our terminology and techniques we use and run."

One key for rookies — especially late draftees — at a pro camp is continually getting noticed positively by coaches. But the preparation to succeed begins long before the first on-field workout.

"There are plenty of games accessible on any platform where you can actually scout the guys you're going to practise against because veterans have film," Brodeur-Jourdain said. "It's about taking all of the information that's out there and making the most out of it.

"As a veteran I used to do the same. I'd show up at rookie camp and see the young guys and what they were doing in practice so when I got into my one-on-ones, I had knowledge about them that they don't necessarily have on me."

Brodeur-Jourdain said there's no detail too small for a player to pay attention to.

"Sometimes, even if you're a bigger guy, it's showcasing that you're chasing the ball, you're going to win with effort, that it's undeniable you're a hard worker," he said. "Those are other things that bring the player into the conversation with coaches, that the guy is hard working, he's focused and he's here for all the right reasons."

Rookies must understand they will struggle at times and make mistakes. But Brodeur-Jourdain said it's imperative young players not only learn from those errors but also not get too caught up when they do succeed.

"I always tell the guys, 'If you're passionate about something, it's not supposed to be easy,'" Brodeur-Jourdain said. "The amount of effort that's involved in getting slightly better is humungous . . . it's understanding what you did wrong and modifying your approach for the next rep or challenge.

"Obviously everyone has skill . . . but the game of football is about preparing yourself so when you get that opportunity, you can take advantage the best way you can."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the incorrect spelling for Kris Sweet's first name.