Running back Chase Brown made the ’23 NFL draft one to remember for Canadian football.
Brown, of London, Ont., was selected in the fifth round, No. 163 overall, by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. That made the former Illinois star the record fifth Canadian taken in the draft.
At least one Canadian has been drafted since 2011 but 14 have gone off the board since 2020. Overall, 75 Canucks have been selected since 1966, which is the start of the Super Bowl era.
Earlier, Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Sidy Sow, of Bromont, Que., and Ole Miss defensive end Tavius Robinson, of Guelph, Ont., were selected in the fourth round by the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
That came after Syracuse offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron, of Victoriaville, Que., and Brown’s twin brother, Sydney, a safety at Illinois, heard their names called Friday night. The Atlanta Falcons took Bergeron in the second round before the Philadelphia Eagles selected Brown in the third.
“I’m just excited for all of those guys,” Bergeron said. “I’ve had a chance to meet them all and I feel like it’s going to take Canadian football to the next level.
“Hopefully, there’s going to be more and more Canadians coming out every year.”
The Browns become just the sixth twins to go in the same NFL draft and first since Khalil and Carlos Davis in 2020. Robinson, who began his college football career at Guelph, is the first Gryphons player ever drafted south of the border, which he said is significant.
“It shows all the kids back home and up here it’s possible with hard work and dedication,” Robinson said during a Ravens video conference. “It’s important kids know that and so I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity and happy kids can look up to me, for sure.
“There are so many great players up here who, in my mind if they were in D1 schools they’d be in the same position, but it’s hard to get that opportunity in Canada. It’s great to see and I think it will continue to open up more opportunities for Canadian kids . . . I think the numbers are going to rise and rise every year.”
The six-foot-four, 329-pound Sow started 13 games last season, allowing just two sacks in 949 snaps. He helped the Eagles finish first in the MAC in red-zone offence (93.9 per cent) and third-down percentage (44.9), and second in passing efficiency (137.9).
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network’s draft guru, feels the Patriots selected a future starter in Sow.
“Torque and power, that’s what his game is all about,” Jeremiah said during the network’s draft telecast. “Excellent on combo blocks.
“He’ll give up his chest a little bit in pass protection but he can anchor down. He’s going to be a starter. A really good football player.”
Sow was an All-MAC first-team selection in 2022 after being named a third-team player in 2021. He started 11-of-13 games at left tackle as a true freshman in 2018 before moving to left guard in 2019.
After being named a third-team MAC selection in 2020, Sow was a first-team pick in 2021 and 2022. Sow finished his collegiate career as Eastern Michigan’s all-time leader in games played (56) and started (54).
Sow participated in the ’23 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and NFL combine. He also was ranked fifth by the CFL scouting bureau in its list of top-20 prospects for Tuesday’s draft.
The six-foot-six, 257-pound Robinson started 13 games last season for Ole Miss. He recorded 44 tackles (17 solo), seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Baltimore selected Robinson as an outside linebacker.
“He did a nice job at Ole Miss,” Jeremiah said of Robinson. “The more you saw, the more you saw him improve.
“He’s long, he launches out of his four-point stance. There are times in the run game he gets pinned inside a little bit but the Ravens will try to cut him loose off the edge.”
Over three seasons at Mississippi, Robinson had 90 tackles (36 solo, 14 tackles for loss), 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles (second most in the FBS). At Guelph, he recorded 65 tackles and 13.5 sacks and was named to the 2018 OUA all-rookie squad before earning a ’19 second-team all-star selection.
“My two years in Canada and first year at Ole Miss I was a standup defensive end,” Robinson said. “I’m very comfortable with both.
“I just feel like I have so much more room to grow. I’m a sponge, I like to be coached, I like to become the best I can at this game. I think there’s a lot of room to grow, for sure.”
Robinson said his penchant for forcing turnovers didn’t come by accident.
“The ball wins games so whenever you get a shot to take that ball out it’s what you have to do,” he said. “A sack isn’t enough, you’ve got to get the strip sack.
“That’s kind of my mentality.”
Robinson participated in both the ’23 Senior Bowl and NFL combine. At Indianapolis, he covered the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds and registered a 33.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot broad jump and 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
Robinson said while he spoke with Ravens officials at both the Senior Bowl and combine, he wasn’t sure if he was still on their radar.
“I didn’t know 100 per cent if it was going to end up (that way),” Robinson said. “When I got the call and saw it was Baltimore, I was excited right away to be part of such a great program.
“I’m excited to get there and start work and do everything I can to help win Super Bowls in Baltimore. It was a great moment.”
Robinson was ranked fourth by the CFL scouting bureau in its list of top-20 draft prospects.
Chase Brown, 23, had a stellar ’22 season. The five-foot-11, 205-pound Canadian was fourth in NCAA rushing with 1,643 yards, averaging five yards a carry and registering 10 100-yard games.
He also had 13 touchdowns (10 rushing, three receiving) and was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award as U.S. college football’s top running back. Brown captured the Jon Cornish Trophy as the top Canadian in American college football.
Brown participated in both the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. At Mobile, Ala., he was named the National team’s running back practice player of the week in voting by members of the squad’s linebackers group.
Brown also performed well at the combine, posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds, 40-inch vertical, 10-foot-seven broad jump and 25 reps in the bench press.
The CFL scouting bureau listed Brown as the second-ranked draft prospect behind Bergeron.