Canadian-born cornerback St-Juste slowly coming to grips with being an NFL draft pick

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Benjamin St-Juste is going to need a little time to fully understand he's an NFL player now.

The Minnesota cornerback was taken in the third round of the NFL draft Friday night by the Washington Football Team. Even after sleeping on it, St-Juste, of Montreal, was having a little difficulty coming to grips with the realization he's a full-time football player.

"I'm always someone who takes a bit more time to just reflect on everything, call up my mom and dad and just chat about it," St-Juste said during a video conference Saturday. "It will probably be the next few days when I really realize what I did.

"But my mind is always on the next thing, keep working and keep working."

St-Juste said he had multiple meetings with Washington officials throughout the draft process but was somewhat surprised to have been drafted by the franchise.

"When I talked with my agent, there were different teams that were supposed to pick me but they ended up getting a corner," St-Juste said. "I think (Washington) has a specific plan for me.

"I think I might not just play corner, I might be moved around inside at safety, all around. I don't know yet about the specific plan but I think that's it."

The six-foot-three, 205-pound St-Juste, 23, played in five of Minnesota’s seven games this season. He registered 14 tackles and broke up three passes while earning academic All Big-10 honours.

St-Juste has certainly shown resiliency during his football tenure. He began his college career at Michigan, playing as a freshman in 2017 before redshirting in 2018 due to a hamstring injury that ultimately affected his scholarship status.

He transferred to Minnesota in 2019, appearing in all 13 games (starting nine) and finished tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups.

"I think (adversity) played a big role in my journey," he said. "Going through barriers, going through adversity, that shapes your character, that shapes your personality … and it gets the best out of you.

"It shows if you really love football and I love football and so I went through it and came out stronger. I still have this chip on my shoulder and I think it put me in the position I am today."

St-Juste showed versatility at the Senior Bowl in January, performing well at both cornerback and safety. He was also invited to the NFL combine but that event was held virtually, putting more weight on St-Juste’s performance in Mobile, Ala.

"He did a really good job at the Senior Bowl, he caught my eye there," Washington GM Martin Mayhew said Friday night. "The guy is six foot three, he runs well, he uses his hands and length well.

"A lot of time you see big corners and they're not as aggressive at the line as they could be. This guy utilizes his length at the line of scrimmage. He brings a lot to the table as far as his overall skill set and his size."

St-Juste's father, Wilbert, played safety for the University of Miami in 1989.

Although he's been drafted by an NFL team, St-Juste said the real work begins now.

"The hardest thing to do in the NFL is not make it, it's staying in it," he said. "I got picked, now I've got to stay in it.

"I have to make an instant impact and have a great career in the NFL."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press