The Green Bay Packers have a big interest in a big player from ... Canada?
The Packers have worked out and held a formal visit with Western Ontario University's Vaughn Martin, a source told Packer Report on Saturday morning.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder would provide depth at nose tackle while learning behind productive Ryan Pickett. Martin, 22, just doesn't have outstanding size, though. At a workout with several NFL teams in March, he reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in 5.04 seconds and put up 33 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
"We've sent DVDs of Vaughn to just about every NFL team. There's been a lot of calls. They are pretty serious," Western Ontario coach Greg Marshall said after Martin declared for the draft in February. "I understand completely. It's a good opportunity for him."
This week, Marshall said he's talked to about 20 teams.
Canadian college rules are different than U.S. college rules. In Canada, they play by Canadian rules, which means a longer and wider field and 12 players on the field. Also in Canada, Martin is eligible to go back to school as long as he doesn't sign a contract with an NFL team. He's not eligible for the CFL draft until 2011.
Martin played in all eight regular-season games last season, bagging 16 tackles, nine assists, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles despite facing constant double teams. In two playoff games, he added six solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Plus, he ran the ball "Refrigerator" Perry style two times for 6 yards and two touchdowns.
While there were 13 Canadian-born college players in the NFL last season, only about 12 Canadian college players have reached the NFL in the last 25 years — including former Packers punter Jon Ryan, the Bears' Israel Idonije and the Colts' Dan Federkeil — though Martin's case is different.
Martin was born in Jamaica and moved to Canada when he was 9. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, he began playing football while he was in high school, when he was a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back and receiver. At the end of high school, he as 6-foot-4 and more than 300 pounds.
He was committed to play at Michigan State but couldn't get in because of grades. So, he enrolled in prep schools in the United States to get his grades up. According to Martin, it was at one of those prep schools, Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., where reaching the NFL became a dream.
"There were guys who were four- or five-star (high school) players and I was the same size and had the same athleticism and, most of the time, I was better," Martin told the Globe and Mail. "Then, one of the coaches said to me, ‘You could play in the NFL.' That put it in the back of my mind and when I started working harder it became more of a reality."
Martin eventually landed at Western Ontario. He was more productive in 2007 than 2008, with 26 tackles, 15 assists and two sacks, but he attracted more attention from blockers last season.
There questions surrounding Martin are obvious. Chiefly, Canadian college competition is akin to playing Division II in America. And because he was, as the saying goes, a man among boys, Martin was at times inconsistent and uninspired.
Nonetheless, in Green Bay, Martin could be eased into the role behind the veteran Pickett.
Through Packer Report sources, we have learned that the team has hosted seven players for pre-draft visits. All seven have been on defense, and Martin is the first defensive lineman.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport