Lions' draft pick Kirby Fabien pursues NFL dreams in East-West Shrine game
B.C.'s prize catch seems to have bigger fish to fry before considering CFL
VANCOUVER — If you want to get a fleeting glimpse of B.C. Lions’ draft pick Kirby Fabien, tune in to the NFL Network.
Fabien hopes that won’t be the last time you’ll see him on the football channel.
The Lions’ second pick in the first round of the 2012 CFL draft, Fabien is one of two CIS players invited to play in the 88th East-West Shrine game, to be held Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and televised on the NFL Network.
While the teams are divided by East and West in the 88th annual college all-star game, the result of the charity benefit probably doesn’t matter as much as the practices leading up to it.
Scouts, player personnel directors and general managers from the NFL and CFL will be there to evaluate prospects, with an eye toward the NFL draft in April.
“I’m training as hard as I can to give it my best shot,” said Fabien, an all-CIS offensive tackle with the University of Calgary Dinosaurs who played his last game on Nov. 17, in the Mitchell Bowl against McMaster. “It’s a huge opportunity, especially for a guy from Canada. A lot of NFL people will be there, watching the practices. Many of them don’t even stick around for the game. It’s how you do in the workouts. I’m going for it.”
Fabien was claimed by the Lions (seventh overall) last May and would have been part of an outstanding trifecta of draft picks had he chosen to report to training camp. The Lion draft pick taken ahead of him, defensive tackle Jabar Westerman, later was named the West Division’s rookie of the year. The player taken after Fabien, offensive lineman Matt Norman, played only half a season with the Lions before returning to teachers’ college. But he showed enough in his short time to be regarded as an important building block in the team’s future.
Fabien was being sized up along those same lines, too. He came to Vancouver following the draft and was introduced as a prize catch at a news conference, along with Westerman.
Something must have got lost in translation, however. Fabien returned to Calgary, but the Lions gave the impression they expected him back for training camp. He decided to stay and play one more season for the Dinos, and the Lions sounded hurt and deceived by what they perceived as a change of heart.
“People thought I was crazy,” Fabien said. “They thought I did it over financial reasons (offered a minimal, first-year salary), things like that. At the end of the day, it was just to graduate and finish school. It would be better to do it now, than prolong my graduation for two or three more years. I won’t be making millions and millions of dollars through football. I promised my family I would go back and graduate, because football isn’t forever. You have to have a backup plan.”
As proof of his sincerity, Fabien loaded up on courses (he is majoring in economics) in summer school and in the fall semester and he now needs to pass only three courses this spring to earn his sheepskin. He required 11 when the Lions drafted him.
With diploma in hand, he could return to Calgary for one more season (CIS players have five years of eligibility) but there’s no need, unless he wanted to work on a master’s degree.
“When he made a decision not go to the Lions, it was based on two factors,” explained Dinos’ head coach Blake Nill. “He made the commitment to his family to finish his degree and graduate this spring. He wanted to showcase his skills down south, and he wanted to be at the level he needed to be. Whether he’s got a shot (NFL), I can’t say. From a Canadian perspective, however, he has a lot of the skills they look for.”
Represented by an American agent, Jonathan Hardaway, based in Washington, D.C., Fabien is not starry-eyed about his NFL prospects. He’s a long shot to be drafted, just as Dan Federkeil was when he graduated from the Dinos in 2005. But Federkeil, a defensive lineman, was later signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent and converted to the O-line. He was with the Colts for four seasons, and picked up a Super Bowl ring, before he was forced to retire after repeated concussions.
“I’m aware of his story,” Fabien said. “It shows that it can be done from the CIS. People make it down south. He won a Super Bowl. He showed it’s not impossible.”
For now, though, the basic goal is just to not look out of place in the company of elite U.S. college players such as Collin Klein, the quarterback of the Kansas State Wildcats and a Heisman Trophy finalist.
“I only took two weeks off at the end of our season, so I’m still in shape,” said Fabien, who is being fast-tracked in his preparations by Calgary strength and conditioning coach Mac Read. “I’m keeping up on my football stuff, doing the lifting and the footwork drills. But I really haven’t hit anybody for a while. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Lions, too, will be vitally interested, to say the least.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun