B.C. Lions star Jovan Olafioye will sit, wait for NFL’s call
Big man easy to find, says his body of excellent work should speak for itself by now
B.C. Lions head coach Mike Benevides offers his thanks to Jovan Olafioye for the past season while the CFL team clears out its lockers at the practice facility in Surrey last month.
Photograph by: RICHARD LAM, THE CANADIAN PRESS
“If you want me, you know where to find me.”
In a nutshell, that is what Jovan Olafioye is saying to the National Football League.
The B.C. Lions’ right tackle — the most outstanding lineman in the Canadian Football League — says NFL teams seeking his services will have to approach him in the off-season, not the other way around.
He feels his body of work in three seasons north of the border is sufficient evidence that the Nigerian Nightmare can play.
Olafioye went through workouts with 15 NFL teams last off-season before he decided to sign with the St. Louis Rams, only to flunk his medical just days after signing a contract. The result was fortuitous for the Lions: They received a bonus season from the Detroit native they didn’t expect to get.
Named the CFL’s most outstanding lineman at the awards gala in Toronto during Grey Cup week, Olafioye said he’ll entertain NFL offers from the comfort of his easy chair this time.
“I’m not going to go through that process (audition workouts) no more,” Olafioye said. “I’m going to sit at home and let my agent (Vancouver-based Dan Vertlieb) take care of everything. If a team wants me, I’ll go down there for a physical. But there’ll be no more workouts. I went through 15 last time. Teams already know about me. There’s a lot of video out there on me, three years’ worth. I’m not going to go through that process again.”
A sales brochure for Olafioye would include a number of outstanding characteristics: Size of a superheavyweight sumo wrestler (6-6, 325 pounds), disposition (nasty), durability (he hasn’t missed a start in three seasons), brute strength, superb range of motion and youth (Olafioye doesn’t turn 25 until Dec. 16). He has three years of pro experience which puts him significantly ahead of many redshirt seniors of similar age just graduating from college.
Conventional wisdom says that the left tackle is the most important player on the offensive line because he protects the quarterback’s blind side. Ben Archibald has played that position for the Lions for the past two seasons, but only because he is 34, more established and, indeed, has played almost his entire career there.
Olafioye has the talent and versatility to line up at any position on the O-line — he has played right/left guard and right/left tackle with the Lions — and that adaptability should make him even more attractive to NFL teams.
Plus, the behemoth tackle surrendered only a single sack in his past two seasons with the Lions, that occurring in Calgary on Oct. 26, when Stampeder defensive end Charleston Hughes defeated him in a 41-21 beat down by the Stamps in unarguably the Lions’ worst performance of the season.
“He (Hughes) beat me inside,” Olafioye said. “I know that’s the first I’ve given up since my rookie year. The NFL is looking for foot speed, flexibility, hand placement, technique, the ability to maximize leverage. There are no stats for offensive linemen, so it boils down to what they can see on tape.”
As for concerns about his health — Olafioye requires medication to control a family predisposition toward hypertension — he doesn’t think that will be an issue this time, if NFL teams want to check him out. The Rams released him over possible liability issues after Olafioye neglected to take his medication and was considered medically suspect.
“Some teams take liabilities in situations like that,” Olafioye said. “Some teams make you sign a waiver in situations like that. Some teams don’t. It just depends. The Rams are a team that doesn’t make you sign a waiver. But I still think they’ll be a possibility next season.”
So is the possibility of Olafioye remaining with the Lions after reaching a long-term deal with the CFL club.
“If I’d stayed with the Rams it would have been under the terms of a rookie contract,” he said. “This time, if I go back, it will be more lucrative. If an NFL team doesn’t give me a good signing bonus, if I feel like I’m not getting a good opportunity, and they’re using me just as a camp body, I’m coming back to Canada. I believe I’m the best offensive lineman in the league. What happened in St. Louis still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”
Still, of the three Lions from the 2011 Grey Cup champions who got shots at NFL employment, he is the one most programmed for possible success.
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian still remains fixated on the NFL dream following a pre-season with the Minnesota Vikings and a cup of coffee with the Cleveland Browns. His attempt to stick was compromised by a lingering back injury that was still hindering his play after he returned to the Lions, one reason he is firm in his resolve to try again.
“Any injury a player has will affect his ability to play at this best,” said Elimimian’s agent, Bardia Ghahremani. “So, it’s safe to assume he was hampered this past NFL training camp. He is 100 per cent now and eager to make another run. As of now, nothing can happen until Feb. 16, when his CFL contract expires. Until then, we have to wait and see what teams have an interest.”
Defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell burned his bridges with two agents and, possibly, the entire NFL after rejecting a contract from the Miami Dolphins. All-CFL in 2011, his play dipped noticeably, however, though not Mitchell’s predilection for controversy and unusual behaviour. In a CFL season marked by injury and two suspensions (one by the league; another by the Lions), he built a case for his possible release.
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