Thursday, May 23, 2024

‘Best is yet to come’ for Ottawa Redblacks receiver Nick Mardner

Must read

Article content

On Day 1 of Nick Mardner’s CFL career, he put in some on-field overtime, staying after practice to catch passes from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

It was a good day for Mardner, who was wearing jersey No. 84, and for the Redblacks, who got the 6-foot-6 receiver, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s CFL Draft, to sign a contract Monday.

Article content

As it turns out, tall and fast are a pretty good combination to have when you catch footballs for a living.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“This is where I’m meant to be,” said Mardner, who is coming off a mini-camp invite from the New York Giants. “I need to get up to speed with some of the guys who’ve been here a few more days than me.

“I learned a lot (in the NFL look), it was a good experience to get in there with some high draft picks and see how it works.”

“I’m looking to see him learn and show the athletic ability he has,” said Redblacks coach Bob Dyce. “He’s a couple of days late, but we’re super excited to have him.”

The ceiling will be high with Mardner, whose size and pass-catching abilities will give him a chance to be an impact player. There’s probably a lot more in the toolbox than what he showed last year with the Auburn Tigers, when he was hampered by a foot issue and played four games.

Prior to transferring to Auburn, Mardner recorded 19 catches for 218 yards and three touchdowns in 2022 with Cincinnati. He previously suited up for Hawaii from 2018-2021, where he made 62 receptions for 1,270 yards and nine touchdowns.

“I feel like I’m pro ready,” said Mardner. “I’ve been pro ready for the past couple of years. I’m really excited to learn from some of the older guys who have been in this league and proved themselves. I’m excited to watch them work and try to do the same thing.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“I haven’t had my best year of work yet, the best is yet to come. I’m really excited to put that on display, to prove to myself I am who I say I am.”

It’s been awhile since he played on a Canadian football field; he was a 2017 graduate of Mississauga’s Clarkson Secondary School and also played for the Oakville Titans and Burlington Stampeders.

“He hasn’t played Canadian football in a while,” said Dyce. “We know when he gets up to speed, he’s going to push Keaton (Bruggeling), the other Canadian receivers and the whole receiving corps. He’s got a unique skillset. He’s a very big target, he’s got a fantastic catch radius. We’ll probably start off with him on the outside, but he’s got the ability to play on the inside as well.

“He’s a very dynamic young man. We want to integrate him and not overload him early.”

Asked about playing in the CFL, with its wider/longer field and other dynamics which differentiate it from the American game, Mardner said: “It’s a passing league and I’m a receiver so I would hope it works out for me. The main thing is having an extra receiver on the field. The waggle should help me a lot with my stride length; being able to get up on DBs shouldn’t be a problem. I have to watch some old film from back in the day and get back in the groove.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“A lot of the plays we do here are concepts that are universal to the football world, whether you’re in Canada or whether you’re in the States. It’s muddy when you come here and see an extra receiver on the field. You know a concept, but then there’s an extra piece to it. That’s something you have to get used to.”

Mardner ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash, 4.62-second short shuttle, and 7.43-second three-cone drill at his pro day in March, while recording 11 225-pound bench press reps, a 35-inch vertical and a 129-inch broad jump.

His mom is from Hamilton so, as a kid, he saw a lot of Tiger-Cats games, with some Argos games thrown in.

Chad Owens was a favourite player.

As for any time spent in Ottawa, he said the only time he’s been here was a two-day eighth-grade field trip.

THE END AROUND: The bad news is offensive lineman Dontae Bull was on crutches Tuesday. The good news is the injury may not be as severe as first feared when he was helped off the field near the end of Monday’s practice. Bull will go through testing soon. Said Dyce: “I wish I could give you more information than I’m able to. It’s better than what we anticipated. But we’ll see what happens when he gets the tests he needs.” … The Redblacks will shorten practice and have a walk-through Wednesday … Former Redblacks defensive lineman Shawn Lemon, who announced his retirement earlier this year then was suspended indefinitely by the CFL for wagering on CFL games, including one in which he played, practised with the Montreal Alouettes Tuesday. He was allowed to be on the field because the CFLPA has filed a grievance on his behalf. Said the CFL in a statement: “The CFL is disappointed that the Players’ Association would challenge a decision so fundamental to the integrity of our league.”

Recommended from Editorial

Article content

Latest article