ARTICLE ON KEVIN CHALLENGER FROM NFL CANADA WEBSITE
Team Canada star uses NFL Global Junior
Michael Preston sat down with Challenger to recall the first time he competed on American soil and enhanced his reputation as a promising receiver.
Q. What do you remember about the week you spent in Louisiana representing Canada?
Challenger: At first I was a little nervous because I knew we were going to stay with families that we didn't really know and I'm not used to going somewhere and staying at other people's houses. I was fortunate enough to get a really nice kid. His name was Anthony Ayo and I stayed with him and his parents. Some players went to families in twos or threes, but I was the only guy at his house and his parents were very supportive. We all stayed with players from the Hahnville High School team and he was a linebacker there.
Q. What was your daily routine at the NFL Global Junior Championship?
Challenger: I'd stay at their house, then wake up and go to school with Anthony and at school we'd be practicing while they were in classes. When we were done practicing we'd go back home on the school bus with them, so we'd actually travel with the kids to and from school. We ate lunch with them at school, and hung out. It was a lot of fun. We just lived a day in their shoes and they'd be our guide and show us around. I found that really interesting.
Q. Can you compare your time in New Orleans with what you were accustomed to in Quebec?
Challenger: We were staying at Hahnville High School. It was a lot different from home. At that school there was actually a pond in the middle that we would have to walk by to get to the practice field and there was a live alligator or crocodile in there and I remember it was sleeping or dormant, but coach still told us not to walk too close that pond!
Q. What do you remember about the championship game, which was decided on the last play as time expired?
Challenger: It came down to a two-point conversion and I remember we were very emotional. We wanted to bring back that gold medal and we wanted to be the best in the world. We were very confident going into the game and we had a very good team and unfortunately we fell short to a very good Louisiana all-star team. The pass went through the hands of one of our receivers, so we just missed out on overtime. It was a tough loss.
Q. Canada has won the past two NFL Global Junior Championships. Is the future bright north of the border?
Challenger: I feel like Canada is making strides in the right direction in terms of competing with the USA and this Team Canada program helps that. It's good to see so many Canadian players getting some exposure.
Q. What advice would you give to the new Team Canada recruits who will represent their country in Miami at the eleventh NFL Global Junior Championship at Super Bowl XLI?
Challenger: I would tell them to enjoy it and soak it up. I look back now and realize just how fortunate I was to go to New Orleans and play during the Super Bowl. The game is a little different and I'm sure they'll adapt to that. It's a dream and not many players get to be in those shoes and play against all-stars from other countries.
You feel like you're part of everything that's going on. It's Super Bowl week and there's events going on within the city and the state and you know that the GJC is happening just a day before the Super Bowl, so you feel pretty special. I remember we were down in New Orleans one day and we saw a couple of the Patriots players down there. Jake Delhomme did the coin toss at our game and we went to the Superdome and did a tour, so we felt a big part of the Super Bowl. Nick Saban came and talked to us and he was very motivating.
Q. How were you selected to play for Team Canada?
Challenger: I remember there were tryouts and I was really excited at the chance to represent my country. I remember it was a great group of guys on the team and also coaches. It was an all-star team of coaches with top colleges and programs represented. The overall atmosphere was fun and just knowing that you're going to play other countries was exciting. I was looking forward to just practicing hard and making the team first of all and I was fortunate enough to do that.
The head coach at the time was Ian Breck and he actually came to a couple of the games that I played at Vanier College and I think they select a few guys around Canada like that. I was selected to go to the preliminary tryouts and practices and they cut down from there.
Q. Following on from coach Breck and his successor Danny Maciocia is new Team Canada head coach Glen Constantin, who will be in charge in Miami for the first time. Do you remember him being an assistant coach back in 2002?
Challenger: Glen's a great guy. I really like him. I actually met him at a combine in probably my first year at Vanier. All the Canadian players were there to be seen and evaluated by Canadian and American university coaches. Every time I go back home I try to keep in touch with him and visit him. He will be a great head coach for Team Canada.
Q. When you were being recruited for college did you feel Canadian high school players were not highly regarded due to the perception they have not played a high enough standard of football compared to American players?
Challenger: I feel that just from being down here the Americans automatically pre-judge that Canadian football is not as good as being on a football field in an American high school. I would say that there are a lot of Canadians playing up in Canada who just do not get the exposure to get recognized to be playing down here. I feel you've got to be in the right place at the right time to be seen.
Q. How did the recruiting process work for you?
Challenger: My head coach at Vanier Ray Gagnon played a large part in me being recruited. He has a lot of contacts down south here and is good friends with some of the BC coaches like Tom O'Brien and he would set up when I would go to things like a national combine. He would promote me to coaches and send out highlight film and helped set up individual meetings.
I remember that year at Vanier we had a lot of good players and perhaps seven who went to Division I schools, so that helped us bring scouts and recruiters into the school. Also when I had a chance to play football for Canada against the best athletes from around the world it was another great opportunity to be seen. Playing against Team USA in the finals made us realize that we could compete with an all-star team and one in Louisiana, which is a pretty good football state. It gave Canada a lot of confidence I feel, that we could compete at that level both then and in the future.
Q. Do you think you have surprised some people here at BC and played beyond expectations, being the leading receiver on the team?
Challenger: My first goal when I was playing back at Vanier was that I really wanted to get a scholarship and play somewhere down south in the States and really pursue that part of my life while playing football. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship here at Boston College.
Once I got here I remember thinking this was a totally different game and that guys were a lot bigger and faster. It took me a while to adjust to the speed of the game. My overall goal was that I wanted to be a productive receiver throughout the time I'm here and just help the team any way I can.
Q. Do you dare look beyond your senior year next year and wonder if there is a place in the NFL for a Canadian wide receiver?
Challenger: I feel like to be a successful receiver you've got to set high goals for yourself or you'll have no motivation to actually go out and play or practice as well as you need to. I set goals whether it might be to catch every ball in every game, or make every block and throughout this last season I've set those goals. I feel that is what's helped me.
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Receptions: 3 (twice)