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Chapdelaine a sleeper pick for B.C. Lions

Former W.J. Mouat Hawks standout Matt Chapdelaine was a sixth-round pick by the B.C. Lions during Sunday's CFL draft. photo: John Van Putten

By Dan Kinvig – Abbotsford News Published: May 03, 2010 5:00 PM

Matt Chapdelaine has long envisioned the day he’d be picked in the Canadian Football League draft.

It’s safe to say he didn’t envision the roller-coaster ride he’d endure between his days as a high school phenom at W.J. Mouat Secondary and Sunday’s CFL talent lottery, when the B.C. Lions selected him with their sixth-round pick, 42nd overall.

As recently as two years ago, Chapdelaine thought his football career was over, due to a series of concussions he suffered while playing university football for the Alberta Golden Bears.

He was later cleared to return to the gridiron, but academic and medical snafus foiled his attempts to join the Queen’s Golden Gaels and Simon Fraser University Clan last fall.

Despite the fact he hasn’t played a meaningful football game since 2007, the Lions took a late-round gamble on the 6’2”, 205-pound receiver.

“When you look at the path that I’ve taken, this is definitely a gift from God,” Chapdelaine told The News on Sunday afternoon. “I’m very grateful, and very humbled by this opportunity.”

Coming out of Mouat in 2006, Chapdelaine was widely regarded as B.C.’s top high school receiving prospect. The previous fall, he’d caught the game-wining touchdown pass in the Hawks’ 7-6 victory over Vancouver College in the provincial AAA championship game.

He landed a scholarship to the University of Alberta, and earned a starting spot with the Golden Bears as a freshman. A trio of concussions in a two-week span cut his rookie season short, though, and a more serious concussion (rated five on a scale of six) at the start of his sophomore year threatened to end his football career altogether.

During his convalescence, Chapdelaine took up weight lifting and body building as a hobby, and noticed that the light-headedness that used to accompany strenuous exercise had disappeared. After undergoing testing, he was cleared to return to the field.

Given a new lease on football life, Chapdelaine’s original plan was to join his younger brother Justin, a quarterback, at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. in the fall of 2009. But transfer issues meant that he’d have to begin his psychology degree all over again at Queen’s.

Chapdelaine’s backup plan was to play at SFU, but he suffered a foot injury and expected to be sidelined for the entire season. In light of that, he elected to go back to the University of Alberta and focus strictly on academics.

As it turned out, his foot injury had been misdiagnosed, and he was running again within three weeks. It was too late to return to SFU at that point.

“It was a bit of an unfortunate circumstance,” Chapdelaine noted. “I was diagnosed with a broken foot, but it was just a misread on the X-ray. Things were happening very quickly, and I needed to make decisions even quicker.”

Chapdelaine’s star-crossed football career took a turn for the better on Sunday, when the Lions spent their last draft pick on him.

Given Chapdelaine’s limited body of work – he managed just 13 catches during his injury-marred university years – his selection was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. The CFL club had solid intelligence on him, though – his father Jacques is the Lions’ offensive coordinator.

Lions coach/general manager Wally Buono said Chapdelaine represented great value in the sixth round.

“When you look at his physical attributes, I think he’s comparable to anyone in the draft,” Buono said. “He’s worked out for us a couple of times, and you could see that in the last year he’s done a lot to improve his physical skills. He’s got excellent size, he runs very, very well, and he catches the ball well.

“When you look at where we picked him, it wasn’t a big risk. And we’re hoping for a reward.”

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