B.C. Lions' Shawn Gore interested in NFL, but not as 'a shot based on a faint dream'
B.C. Lion Shawn Gore shares a laugh with Roughrider fan, Dareeion Knockaert, and his Dad, Raymond Knockaert, during the team's annual Christmas trip to BC Children's Hospital.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER — For Shawn Gore it was autograph utopia: Young kids, grateful expressions, no pushing or shoving, quality as opposed to quantity, nobody looking to get his scribble on a piece of sellable merchandise.
The kids at B.C. Children’s Hospital tentatively but respectfully greeted the B.C. Lions receiver Wednesday as he doled out handshakes, conversation and a personalized autograph on a Lions’ ball cap to seal the memory as part of the team’s annual Christmas visit.
“It’s really heart-warming for me,” said Gore, among a contingent of Lions that included Travis Lulay, Marco Iannuzzi, Paris Jackson, Keron Williams and Angus Reid. “Especially because this comes at the start of the Christmas season. It gives you a different perspective -- what other people are going through, the challenges they face, and what they need. It really puts me in the Christmas spirit.”
Indeed, Gore’s careful signing technique showed respect not only for the recipient but for the teachers who taught him cursive writing in school.
But it lead to a somewhat intrusive question, in the midst of dispensing holiday cheer.
Where will he be signing next year?
Gore was one of eight Lions officially announced as pending free agents by the Canadian Football League on Wednesday. The others are backup quarterback Mike Reilly, offensive linemen Jovan Olaifoye, Jon Hameister-Ries and Jesse Newman, linebackers Solomon Elimimian, James Yurichuk and safety Cauchy Muamba.
Elimimian’s agent, Bardia Ghahremani, has openly stated that the linebacker is seeking another NFL tryout opportunity. Olafioye, the CFL’s most outstanding lineman in 2012, is also looking to make the jump to the NFL on a more selective basis. He is represented by Dan Vertlieb, the same Vancouver agent who acts as an intermediary for Gore, Geroy Simon and other Lions.
With the free agency period still some weeks away (Feb. 15), Gore is not dismissing the NFL as a possible option for him either, once that date arrives.
In 2010, fresh out of Bishop’s University, the rookie stuck with the Green Bay Packers until the final round of cuts before being released to join the Lions, the team which took him in the CFL draft.
In that first brush with NFL employment, Gore was struck by the passion Packer fans have for their team. At Green Bay’s rookie mini-camp, without big-name veterans such as Aaron Rodgers and Donald Driver in attendance, fans would line up before and after practice for autographs of players, like himself, who were the farthest thing from celebrity athletes.
“If the circumstances are right, and the possibility of making the team is there, I’d consider it,” Gore said. “If it looks like I’m just going to be a camp body, I wouldn’t be interested. I have a lot of good things going for me in the CFL. I wouldn’t go back to the NFL for a shot based on a faint dream.”
At 25, Gore is by no means a finished product. But he has three years of pro experience now, including the past two seasons as a starter, and feels he’s something more than just a fast pair of legs as he was in his first go-round with the Packers.
NFL teams watch YouTube and video and scout CFL games, but even with that extensive talent-evaluation operation a prospective recruit from Canada still has to seek out expressions of interest.
“I want to be proactive,” Gore said. “The way I look at football, stuff doesn’t just happen. Sometimes, you have to make people aware you’re available, that you’re looking to go in another direction. I’m more than willing to go to a (NFL) workout. But I’d like some kind of commitment. I would need that, if I’m to go. Organizations have to make decisions that are right for the organization. And players have to do what’s of benefit to them. But being a team player, it’s not always about making a decision which is best for you. I’ll still look at how my decision might help or hinder my team (Lions).”
With Elimimian and Olafioye, definitely, and Gore, possibly, NFL-bound, the Lions could also lose Reilly to free agency in the CFL and, perhaps, Yurichuk. Both Reilly and Yurichuk will be looking for increased playing time and a chance to become prime-time players.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me, here in Vancouver, and I do love the B.C. Lions organization,” Reilly said. “In all honesty, if I was given the opportunity to come back, in the same role, that would not be a bad situation. That being said, you always want to progress -- and play.”
The Lions finished the season with four quarterbacks on their roster, including Jarrett Brown, an NFL journeyman who played at West Virginia.
“They’ve been evaluating Jarrett and trying to determine if he’d be a good fit to come back to training camp next year,” Reilly said. “Whether my status had anything to do with that, I’m not really sure.”
With the possible loss of Olafioye to the NFL, Newman set to retire, Hameister-Ries (back) and Dean Valli (knee surgery) questionable and Patrick Kabongo a stopgap measure, nobody has to expend much thought on this fact: the Lions will require a major rebuild on the offensive line.
Potential O-line free agents Andrew Woodruff (Montreal), Joe Eppele and Cedric Gagne-Marcoux (Toronto), Marwan Hage and Peter Dyakowski (Hamilton) might provide some of the answer, although most are expected to re-sign with their clubs.
So is Calgary pending free-agent safety Eric Fraser, a Burnaby native who potentially could fill one of the biggest holes in the Lions’ defence.
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