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Running toward the big leagues
By Sean Maraj
They were all big fish in a small pond, but now the tables have turned.
This is the story for several members of Western's football team who were recently drafted to the Canadian Football League. In total, six players were drafted from Western, the most from any other university in Canada. The drafted players include quarterback Mike O'Brien, tight end Hudson Clarke, running back Fabian Rayne and first round pick Tim Bakker, all of whom have played a pivotal part of Western's team for the last few years.
Western's chairman of athletics, Darwin Semotiuk, was happy with the results of the draft and thought it was indicative of the success of the Western football program.
"The fact that we had six players drafted and we were the leading university says a lot and is a comment on our football program," he said.
Quarterback/punter Mike O'Brien was also very happy with the results of the draft. O'Brien, who was drafted by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, had a feeling that he might be moving west before the actual draft took place.
"I felt I had a good chance, I had talked to Saskatchewan so I wasn't surprised," O'Brien said. "I was happy and excited. I knew I had to get mentally prepared, but overall I was happy."
Western tightend Hudson Clarke was also happy with how the draft went. Clarke, who was drafted first in the fifth round, is also packing his bags and has the chance of becoming a Rough Rider next season.
"I didn't get invited so I had to drive personally to free agency camps. I sent out my highlight reels and everything myself and Saskatchewan gave me a call the night before," Clarke said. "I kind of want to get going and make the next step."
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the draft was Fabian Rayne, a major player on the Mustang team, who was drafted in the sixth round by the BC Lions. Western head coach Larry Haylor explained Rayne is the type of player with whom the CFL still needs to get comfortable. He compared Rayne to former Western great and National Football League player Tim Tindale.
"Fabian is a more complete package than the CFL is used to. Fabian is not the prototypical running back." Haylor said. "Tindale did the exact type of things that Fabian did and they didn't think that he would fill that roll. He doesn't look fast until people try to catch him."
As for the future, Western must cope with a major loss of its team while departing players look forward to playing on a higher playing field.
"Numerically, 50 per cent of our people [offensively] are gone, but the impact is far greater than 50 percent." Haylor said.
O'Brien was also looking forward to what the CFL road may have in store for him as he prepares to ship off to Saskatchewan. His only regret was not playing for Western in the new stadium.
"I have no problems with Saskatchewan they have the best fans. It would have been nice to play in the new stadium. I dressed with the team as the quarterback for two years, but I'm pretty happy," O'Brien said.
Clarke, who will also be making the way to Saskatchewan, is also looking forward to proving himself in CFL circles.
"I think it's great, it's something I can do and I have a few friends there. I'm hoping to make the team and go from there," he said.