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It is considered one of the highest honours for NCAA football seniors and NFL draft hopefuls every January: the chance to show their skills in front of virtually every pro football team’s brass at the Senior Bowl. Only a select few Canadians can lay claim to suiting up in the prestigious event.
Jordan Herdman is one of them. The Lions’ linebacker/special teams ace won’t soon forget the feeling he had when he was told he would be a part of it all.
“I was in the middle of a workout when my agent called to tell me I was going to be attending. I was so excited, I almost cried. It had always been a dream of mine,” the product of SFU recalled.
An annual event that began in 1950, the Reese’s Senior Bowl serves as a post-season college all-star game for players whose eligibility has ran out. It provides many youngsters with the opportunity to increase their stock for the April NFL draft.
As practices for the 2018 game continue from Mobile, Alabama, the main event coming on Saturday, Herdman can’t help but feel nostalgic. One of his biggest takeaways from the daily routine was just how busy and detailed every aspect of it was.
“There was definitely a lot going on. Plenty of scouts walking around, and some would text you to set up a meeting. It was a long process with a lot of media coverage and NFL coaches,” Herdman explained.
The Winnipeg native spent some extended time with both the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, studying in the film room and performing the usual on-field drills. He parlayed his Senior Bowl experience into springtime workouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.
“I was actually in contact with the Chiefs prior to the Senior Bowl,” Herdman said.
“I started hearing from them midway through the season at SFU. They came to watch a few of my games and once I got to the Senior Bowl I met some of the Detroit scouts.”
Along with impressing those important onlookers, another big perk of suiting up in Mobile is the chance to test your skills against some of the top talents the NCAA has to offer. Herdman’s teammates included Chiefs’ running back Kareem Hunt, Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Corey Clement and receiver Trent Taylor, now with the San Francisco 49ers. The quarterback contingent in that game included the Buffalo Bills’ Nathan Peterman and future Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft pick Josh Dobbs.
Imagine being a quiet, humble kid from the Burnaby Mountain campus surrounded by all of that talent in a football-mad environment like Alabama.
“You can tell football is just religion down there,” he said.
“There is just lots of support for the game and the people are great. It’s just a pure football town.”
The only Canadian player in this year’s Senior Bowl is Fort Hays State defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd. The native of Ajax, Ontario played at SFU in 2012 before leaving the game for a couple of seasons. His negotiation rights are owned by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. University of Montreal receiver Regis Cibasu and University of Alberta offensive lineman Mark Korte both took part in last weekend’s East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cibasu was ranked number 8 on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s top 25 draft prospects in December.
To say the experience paid off for Herdman would be an understatement. The club’s seventh-round draft choice recorded 19 special teams tackles in his rookie season, second only to Chandler Fenner. He also was known for being one of the more tenacious members of the special teams coverage unit. Now comes the task of increasing that output in year two.
“I’m definitely excited and I expect a lot from myself this coming year,” Herdman stated.
“I want to prove it each year and have high hopes for every season.”
The fact his twin brother Justin earned a Grey Cup championship in his rookie season with the Toronto Argonauts is all the motivation he needs these days.
“Yeah he is definitely happy about that and has bragged a couple times about getting his ring,” Jordan chuckled.
“I’m happy for him. A lot of guys go their whole career without winning one. I was so happy for him. That’s the goal every year, to get to that Grey Cup. I am just as hungry as I was last year to get it. I’m just going to do what I can to put the work in so I can be ready when the season comes.”
Now that he has tackled the Senior Bowl, no goal should seem unattainable.