Monday, April 17, 2000

HAT TRICK FOR CANADIANS
Toronto's Gavadza, Montreal's Mercier, Ottawa's Kane Taken in NFL Draft

By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

Jason Gavadza has his work cut out for him to crack the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup. But at least he knows where to look for some incentive.

The Toronto native was a sixth-round selection by the Steelers in yesterday's NFL draft, one of three Canadians who were late-round picks.

Gavadza replaced Whitby native O.J. Santiago as the starting tight end at Kent State University four years ago and steadily improved to the point where he became a prospect first for the CFL and then the NFL.

Santiago, of course, went on to start for the Atlanta Falcons after being selected in the third round of the 1997 draft.

B.C. PICK

Richard Mercier of Montreal was the first Canadian to go yesterday when Baltimore took him in the fifth round, the Ravens' fourth pick overall.

The Miami Hurricanes centre was a selection of the B.C. Lions in last year's CFL college draft (second round, 15th overall).

In his junior season, Mercier helped block for Indianapolis Colts star Edgerrin James, his teammate at the time. He follows in the footsteps of another graduate of Quebec high school ball. Tom Nutten, who played at Champlain College, started on the offensive cline for the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

Scouts were most impressed with the strength of Mercier, who played college football at Vanier College. Chosen a first team all-American by the Sporting News in 1999, Mercier, at 6-foot-2, 292 pounds, was also a star in the Hurricanes weight room where teammates marvelled at his ability to squat 610 pounds.

The third Canuck to be selected was Vancouver native Rob Meier. A starter the past two years at Washington State, Meier can play both tackle and end.

Like Mercier, his CFL rights are owned by the Lions.

SOLID RUNNER

Gavadza, who played for Michael Power, started at five different positions in his high school career leading the Trojans to four league championships.

In his last year at Kent State, Gavadza ranked fourth in the U.S. in receptions among tight ends with 47 and third in yards with 654.

The 24-year-old's stock rose at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last month where scouts were impressed with his blocking ability and for his strong running after making a catch. Steelers brass are hopeful Gavadza, like Santiago did for the Falcons, will step into help an offence that could use plenty.

A Mid American Conference all-star, Gavadza ended his college career with a 58-yard touchdown run against Akron.

Morgan Kane, a running back from Ottawa, was touted as a potential late-round pick after a solid season with Wake Forest where he ran for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns. Scouts may have been dissuaded by his average speed, though he remains a solid possibility to become a free-agent signee.

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