Christian Covington’s NFL selection an emotional one for family

 

It just hit me: ‘This is my son, the little baby I cradled in my arms, going to the National Football League’, says Grey Cup champion father Grover Covington

 
 
 
 
Christian Covington, 21, of Surrey was chosen by Houston as the 216th overall pick in 2015 National Football League draft.
 
 

Christian Covington, 21, of Surrey was chosen by Houston as the 216th overall pick in 2015 National Football League draft.

Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, PNG

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Truth to be told, Grover Covington never experienced a feeling like this before in 11 seasons of professional football. Even as a member of the undisputed underdog Hamilton Tiger-Cats, at the 1986 Grey Cup game in Vancouver, when the Ticats trashed the favoured Edmonton Eskimos 39-15, he never had emotion well up within him as it did on Saturday.

Tick, tick, tick ... for three days, anticipation, doubt and nervousness had been building by the hour in a Surrey home bursting with relatives and friends. Just after 2 p.m. Vancouver time, the tension finally popped.

The Houston Texans made a phone call to the Covingtons’ home and asked to speak with their 21-year-old son, Christian, a defensive tackle. The Rice Owl was going back to Houston as the 216th overall pick (sixth round) in 2015 National Football League draft. Christian Covington will join a team which plays just five minutes from Rice University, where he will graduate with a degree in kinesiology and sports medicine this spring.

“I never realized it would be this difficult,” admitted the 59-year-old father. “I was never mentioned about getting drafted when I came out of school. For me, having grown up in the States, and all of a sudden have a son drafted by the NFL, is a dream come true. The draft process is not easy. It’s very difficult. We didn’t sleep much. To be honest, I loved being a (Grey Cup) champion. But I didn’t cry when I won the Grey Cup. All of us (his family) were weeping. All our friends were weeping. It just hit me: ‘This is my son, the little baby I cradled in my arms, going to the National Football League ...’ I tell you, it just hits you. We were just so happy for him. It’s wonderful.”

Indeed, there may not have been a more joyous home in North America than the one, Natasha Covington, Grover’s wife, said was overflowing with supporters tumbling into the front lawn.

“We stopped counting at 75,” she said. “We kept hearing the doorbell ring and it became too distracting. So we just kept the front door open. It was beautiful.”

Relatives from Winnipeg and as far away as Germany and California waited out the three-day draft with them. Phones call from Maryland, North Carolina (Grover’s roots) and South Korea (where he has a brother stationed in the U.S. military) starting coming in, from the moment Christian was picked.

Outside, passing motorists honked horns in acknowledgment while neighbours the Covingtons barely knew dropped in to offer congratulations.

“There’s that old saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It came full circle back on us,” Natasha explained. “There were so many people who wanted to be here. It just shows how much family support and community support means to achieving things in life.”

Only four years ago, the Covingtons had gathered at the B.C. Lions’ training facility in Surrey for National Signing Day, a long-standing tradition in U.S. football when high school seniors commit to the college of their choice.

Christian, a grade 12 student at Vancouver College, a Catholic boys prep school where he started in kindergarten, chose Rice, a leading research university in Houston to pursue football and academic studies.

“We brought him up to think that football is maybe 10 per cent of an athlete’s life,” Grover said. “A college degree is going to help him the rest of his life.”

Christian’s plan was to dazzle in both the classroom and on the football field. After being named all-conference as a sophomore, he was projected to be a second-round, perhaps late first-round draft pick, had he used up all four years of eligibility with the Owls. But a dislocated kneecap (he had surgery last November) made for an abbreviated junior season and cast his future draft status in some doubt.

Covington then took the calculated gamble of declaring for the draft in January, even though he was still rehabbing from the injury. He bypassed the NFL combine in February, but questions about his speed, agility and soundness were answered when he performed well at Rice’s Pro Day (March 25).

Ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 Canadian Football League set for May 12, the six-foot-two, 289-pound Covington was the only Canadian selected in this year’s NFL draft, although a number of Canadian collegians were signed as undrafted free agents or given tryout contracts later. They include Simon Fraser wide receiver Lemar Durant, reportedly headed to rookie camp with the New York Giants. Durant is also ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the CFL draft.

Grover Covington said he realized the irony in the family situation, when a reporter pointed out that he, an American, had come to Canada to pursue his football dreams while the son, a Canadian, was realizing his in the U.S.

Grover Covington played just two years of high school football in North Carolina, went to a small college, Johnson C. Smith, and was never drafted. He went on to a free agent camp in Atlanta, played two pre-season games with the Green Bay Packers, got released and then signed with the Montreal Alouettes, who traded him to Hamilton. As a Tiger-Cats’ defensive end, he recorded 157 sacks over 11 seasons, which remains a CFL record.

“It’s kind of crazy how it’s all worked out,” Grover says. “God works in mysterious ways. It just seems like yesterday that this cute little innocent face (his son) told me he wanted to play football. Now he’s off to join J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney in Houston. Where have the years gone? No words can describe the pride and excitement we feel for the next part of his journey. It’s so surreal.”

mbeamish@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

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Christian Covington, 21, of Surrey was chosen by Houston as the 216th overall pick in 2015 National Football League draft.
 

Christian Covington, 21, of Surrey was chosen by Houston as the 216th overall pick in 2015 National Football League draft.

Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, PNG

 
Christian Covington, 21, of Surrey was chosen by Houston as the 216th overall pick in 2015 National Football League draft.
Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington (1) chases Army quarterback Angel Santiago (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Point, N.Y., on Oct. 11, 2014. Christian Covington doesn’t have to go far to begin his pro football career. The Rice defensive lineman went in the sixth round, No. 216 overall, to the Houston Texans in the NFL draft Saturday. The school is roughly five kilometres from NRG Stadium, the club’s home venue.
Christian Covington’s father, Grover Covington, centre, waves to ecstatic Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans in the 1986 Grey Cup game at BC Place Stadium.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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