Carabins player close to NFL dream

All imaginable pitfalls have been left on the road to Pier-Olivier Lestage’s NFL in times of pandemic, but despite the winding aspect of the course, it knocks on the door of the dream. “Saturday is one of the biggest days of my life ahead of me,” sees the Carabins offensive lineman.

The NFL draft takes off on Thursday night, but it’s two days later that Lestage should finally be focused on his future. It will be the day of rounds 4-7, but more importantly, at the end of rounds, many players get their opportunity through a contract as a free agent.

“I try not to have too many expectations. In the eyes of the NFL, I’m a Canadian player who didn’t play in 2020 because our season was canceled. I am leaving from afar. The door may open after the draft. If I’m on an NFL team after day 3 of the event, whatever the way, it will be mission accomplished for me, ”Lestage said in an interview with“ Le Journal de Québec ”.

Despite the health situation which greatly limited the visibility he could have obtained in normal times, the guard believes that he was able to make the most of a complex situation.

He was notably able to expose himself to recruiters during his presence at the Tropical Bowl, in January in Orlando, in addition to the College Gridiron Showcase, in Texas.

“It was quite complicated and I’m happy that the process is finished. In all the uncertainty, it was not easy to constantly stay the course, but despite everything I am satisfied with the opportunities that have been given to me. ”

“I was able to answer a lot of questions about myself. The NFL teams already liked my videos. The fact that I was able to compete with American talent showed them my level of play and all the seriousness I put in my preparation, ”he explained.

A good mentor

In addition to having been able to gain some visibility in the United States, Lestage did not skimp on his preparation by working with Paul Alexander, an experienced coach who notably led the offensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals from 1994 to 2017 and who provided him with sound advice. His network of contacts can certainly not hurt.

“We kept in touch and he was incredibly supportive in the process. One of the things he said to me that I make sure I remember is that who cares if I got drafted or not. As long as you make it into the NFL, it’s the football that will talk afterwards, ”summed up the 6’3”, 295 lb guard, who has also become familiar with the center position lately.

“Being able to play two positions increases my value,” he argued.

Of interest

In light of the discussions with different teams that have taken place in recent months, Pier-Olivier Lestage feels attacked.

“I think I have a good chance of getting a contract. Several teams spoke with me and some showed a lot of interest. You never know how it’s going to turn out. If I sign, so much the better. Otherwise, there will be the Canadian Football League (CFL) to make my dream of playing professional football come true. ”

Lestage is represented by Sasha Ghavami, who also counts Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Antony Auclair among his clients.

Bruno Labelle expects his chance

As the draft approaches, tight end Bruno Labelle sees himself living a story like the one that began for Antony Auclair in 2017. More than ever, he believes in his chances of playing in the NFL next fall.

In the spring of 2017, even though he had been ignored at the annual NFL auction, Auclair had landed a free agent contract with the Buccaneers and he has made his home in the big circuit ever since.

For his part, Labelle has played the last five seasons in the uniform of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

With a good build (6 ft 4 in, 248 lb), he caught 20 passes including two for touchdowns, but above all, he established himself as a quality blocker.

Like Auclair before him, he believes he has done what is necessary to convince recruiters that he has his place in the NFL.

“I’m not the type of guy who ‘flashes’ in the game summaries. I still have a very important role at the block level and this is what gives me an opportunity to graduate to the professional level. There is a good market for tight ends who block. Teams are looking for it and when you are able to do the job and be consistent you can have a very long career, ”Labelle said in an interview, specifying that he sees himself quickly in the NFL.

« Absolutely! If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you. It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence. ”

Good discussions

During his “Pro Day” on March 31, the former Nomades du Collège Montmorency said he had received good comments from several of the 29 teams present. Since then, discussions with some clubs have gone a little further, but Labelle prefers not to get carried away.

“Some teams spoke to me more than others, but I don’t think that’s a big indicator of who can really watch me. It remains unknown. You shouldn’t create expectations with that. It’s nice to have good conversations with some teams, but all doors remain open. I am naturally not stressed and let things go. Any team that will give me the opportunity to play, I’ll be happy, ”he said.

If the NFL doesn’t open its doors to him, Labelle is ranked 16th prospect for the CFL Draft, and he would gladly explore that avenue.

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