Shrinking the Border

While hundreds of American high school seniors sign national letters of intent every year, our neighbors to the north rarely have a player capable of earning a college football scholarship. That likely will change next year, as Ontario lineman David Knevel already has a SEC offer and heavy Wisconsin interest.

BRANTFORD, Ontario - It's the second largest country in the world according to land size, which is why the brand of football the Canadians subscribe to is literally bigger than anywhere else in North America.

The Canadian field of play is 110 yards long by 65 yards wide (101 m by 59 m), rather than 100 yards long by 53? yards wide (91 m by 49 m) in American football. Canadians play with 12 men on the field, play with a slightly different size of football and have only three downs to get 10 yards and a first down rather that the four American have been accustomed to. Football in Canada is literally bigger.

But throw in the gap of talent between the borders and Canadian football ranks a step or two below the Arena Football League, a main reason why a country of 34.1 million people only had five high schools commit to a college in the Class of 2012.

That's why when a player like 6-9, 290-pound offensive lineman David Knevel comes along, it's worthy to take notice.

"He's one of the most special players I have come across," said Pauline Johnson high school coach Ken Chisholm. "He's a real clean-cut good kid who will probably have a SAT score through the roof."

Like most young Canadians, Knevel grew up playing hockey until he was 13 and was a ‘high level player,' according to Chisholm, before his growth spurt. When Knevel came to school in the ninth grade, he stood approximately 6-1. When the school did their height measurements this spring, Knevel growth spurt is now at eight inches, possessing the size, strength and footwork needed to compete in America.

"He has very little body fat on him, which is the other unique part of him," said Chisholm of Knevel, who plays on both sides of the line. "He trimmed down about 20 pounds. He'll be able to carry around 340 pounds easily with some more weight training. I think the scouts are seeing that."

Last year's high-profile Canadian import was Faith Ekakitie, a native of Brampton located in the west suburbs of Toronto. But while Ekakitie grew up north of the border, the Iowa commit played his high school football at Lake Forest Academy in Illinois.

Knevel has lived in Canada his whole life, but his American exposure has come from him working out at IMG Madden Football Academy in Florida the past three years – the same facility where former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson did his workouts prior to the 2012 NFL Draft.

"He's been recognized and seen down there, which is very rare for a Canadian," said Chisholm.

Even with Knevel learning zone blocking, power step techniques, learning to play up tempo and competing in the Under Armour Combine, the interest is still slow. Although he has already picked up a SEC offer from Missouri, it'd be a fair assumption that Knevel would have plenty more if he were in the states, as the only college coaches to visit him in school thus far this spring has been from Buffalo.

And although Knevel plays Canadian football rules at Pauline Johnson HS's senior division, Chisholm says that he doesn't think the bridge between American and Canadian football is the reason his stud lineman is sitting on only one offer.

"In my personal opinion, I don't think it's relevant," said Chisholm, who said his team will play a nonconference game in Ohio in October to get more exposure. "I think football coaches are looking for football kids and you can see a lot of people by looking on the Internet. From a Canadian perspective, we just don't get seen as much.

"Missouri is way ahead of the game in terms of the offer. We didn't expect it to happen that quickly. David proudly wears the Missouri t-shirt he bought when he was down there."

With the amount of mail and invites Knevel has been receiving, his shirt collection has a chance to expand this summer. Florida, Miami, Missouri and Wisconsin have been sending the most mail, and Wisconsin had been sending multiple pieces of mail on a weekly basis from December through February.

Knevel visited Wisconsin in February and plans to camp again with the Badgers this summer.

"He loved the visit," said Chisholm of Knevel's Wisconsin visit. "He was in a lecture hall with a lot of other Wisconsin players and they talked about their experiences. At that point, the coaches talked with him privately about their program and what they like about him. He really liked the offensive line coach, Mike Markuson, because he has developed a lot of NFL guys.

"They have a great offensive line tradition and the coaching staff are really genuine people."

In addition to Wisconsin, Knevel has camped at Iowa and Notre Dame, has visited Syracuse and Wake Forest, in addition to Wisconsin, would like him to come to camp.

"We're not sure what's going to happen next, so that's why we are kind of sitting back patiently," said Chisholm. "We just want David to sit back and see what all the options are."

Taking advantage of the Canadian school system that allows players to play 4.5 years, Knevel will start this season and likely enroll early at the school of his choice.


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