Laval’s Auclair, Manitoba’s Gray invited to prestigious Shrine Game Saturday

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As announced last month, Antony Auclair, a tight end from Laval University, and Geoff Gray, an offensive lineman from the University of Manitoba, will represent U SPORTS football in the 92nd edition of the prestigious East-West Shrine Game on Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. EST, live on NFL Network. The game will also be available on the East-West Shrine Game Radio Network, and online as a streaming radio broadcast at www.shrinegame.com/en/GameWeek.

The longest running university all-star game in the United States, the Shrine Game has been played annually since 1925 to raise funds and awareness for the 22 Shriners Hospitals in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Since 1985, U SPORTS has been represented annually at the event which features over 100 draft-eligible seniors, primarily from NCAA institutions. On most occasions, two U SPORTS players have made the trip across the border, with the exception of 1985 (1), 2008 (4), 2012 (3) and 2016 (3).

More than 90 players from last year’s game signed with professional teams and more than 70 made final National Football League rosters. On average, around 265 Shrine Game alumni are on NFL rosters each year.

Auclair, a sport intervention student from Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., is the second Laval standout in as many years to receive an invitation to the prestigious event. He follows in the footsteps of offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt – now a member of the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions – and becomes the Rouge et Or’s sixth overall selection, good for second place behind Calgary (12) among U Sports programs.

In four seasons on the Quebec City campus, Auclair helped Laval capture a pair of Vanier Cup national titles, first in his rookie campaign in 2013 and then last month when he was a key factor in a 31-26 triumph over Calgary, catching six passes for 70 yards and one touchdown in the championship match. Praised for his blocking abilities and his superior athletic skills, the six-foot-six, 254-pound senior is also a model of durability as he never missed a game during his university career.

This past season, Auclair had 17 receptions for 229 yards and two majors in eight league contests and was instrumental in the successes of an offensive unit that averaged 36.1 points and 460.6 yards per game. A unanimous RSEQ conference all-star for the second straight year, he added 12 catches for 154 yards and one score in four playoff outings.

Selected to play in the U SPORTS East-West Bowl last spring, Auclair was ranked 10th overall – sixth among U SPORTS players – on the prospects list published in September by the CFL Scouting Bureau.

“My goal was to get noticed, but for me, this is only one part of the process that’s getting started. The draft is the ultimate goal and the Shrine Game is only one of the steps,” said Auclair. “It will still be an important event because all the scouts will be on hand. I expect it to be very similar to what we did at the East-West Bowl last spring.”

“Antony caught the attention of the NFL, as up to seven teams asked for information about him. The scouts who evaluated him said it would be good for him to participate in this kind of game because of the level of competition,” said Laval head coach Glen Constantin. “We are honoured to see a sixth member of the Rouge et Or invited to this prestigious classic.

“Antony was a quarterback in CEGEP, so he only started playing tight end here at Laval. He has made great progress, not only as a receiver, but also as a blocker. He has benefited from the advice of Mathieu Bertrand, who helped him work on the technical aspects of blocking. He also improved under Justin Éthier and Guillaume Rioux, and also did a lot of work in the weight room.”

Gray, an engineering student from Winnipeg, also follows in the footsteps of a former teammate as Manitoba was represented at last year’s Shrine Game by defensive tackle David Onyemata, now a regular member of the New Orleans Saints after being selected in the fourth round (120th overall) in the 2016 NFL draft. Overall, the Bisons have sent five players to the winter classic, including three in the past four years.

Gray had a breakthrough season this fall in his fourth campaign on the U of M campus. The imposing six-foot-six, 310-pound guard was not only voted a Canada West all-star for the first time, he was also named the conference’s most outstanding down lineman, a national nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy and a first-team all-Canadian. He started all eight league games for the Bisons, who averaged 34.5 points and 487.1 total yards per contest, including 333.1 yards through the air, good for third in the country.

A member of the Canada West championship team in 2014, Gray participated in last spring’s East-West Bowl and was ranked 11th overall – seventh among U SPORTS players – on the September list of the CFL Scouting Bureau.

“I am grateful to be selected for the Shrine game,” said Gray. “I am eager to represent myself, my team and Canadian university football. It will be an unforgettable experience.”

“Geoff’s selection is well deserved, and is a culmination of his tremendous work ethic and dedication to the game,” said Manitoba head coach Brian Dobie. “As the third Bison selected to the Shrine Game over the past four years, Geoff will represent U SPORTS and the University of Manitoba with great pride.”

NOTES: The West won the 2016 Shrine Game 29-9 and leads the all-time series 48-38-5… The impressive list of past U SPORTS standouts invited to the Shrine Game includes current NFL linemen Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs and David Onyemata of the New Orleans Saints, who previously starred for the Regina Rams, McGill Redmen and Manitoba Bisons, respectively… The list also includes former NFLers Mike Schad (Queen’s), Randy Chevrier (McGill), Dan Federkeil (Calgary), Samuel Giguère (Sherbrooke) and Israel Idonije (Manitoba), as well as Hec Crighton Trophy winners Don Blair (Calgary), Kojo Aidoo (McMaster), Jesse Lumsden (McMaster) and Andy Fantuz (Western)… Highlighting the NFL greats who have participated in the event are Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Larry Csonka, John Elway, Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Roger Staubach and Kellen Winslow, as well as legendary coaches such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Jerry Glanville, June Jones, Don Shula, Steve Spurrier and Dick Vermeil… An impressive 72 Shrine Game alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

WESTERN U SPORTS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME

Year     Player                                          Pos.     Ht.       Wt.      University           Head Coach

2017     Geoff Gray                                   OL       6-6       310      Manitoba              Brian Dobie
2016     Sean McEwen                               OL       6-3       297      Calgary                Wayne Harris
2016     David Onyemata                          DL       6-4       295      Manitoba              Brian Dobie
2015     Addison Richards                         WR      6-5       205      Regina                  Frank McCrystal
2014     Evan Gill                                      DL       6-3       280      Manitoba              Brian Dobie
2013     Kirby Fabien                                OL       6-6       295      Calgary                Blake Nill
2012     Ben Heenan                                  OL       6-4       310      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
2012     Akiem Hicks                                DL       6-5       300      Regina                  Frank McCrystal
2011     Anthony Parker                            SB        6-2       215      Calgary                Blake Nill
2010     Jordan Sisco                                 SB        6-1       212      Regina                  Frank McCrystal
2009     Simeon Rottier                              OL       6-6       286      Alberta                 Jerry Friesen
2008     Dylan Barker                                S          6-4       200      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
2008     Brendon LaBatte                          OL       6-4       320      Regina                  Frank McCrystal
2007     Jordan Rempel                             OL       6-6       310      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
2006     Daniel Federkeil                           DL       6-7       285      Calgary                Tony Fasano
2005     Nick Johansson                            DL       6-2       275      UBC                     Lou DesLauriers
2004     Ibrahim Khan                               OL       6-4       305      Simon Fraser        Chris Beaton
2003     Israel Idonije                                DL       6-7       285      Manitoba              Brian Dobie
2002     Jason Clermont                             IR        6-1       236      Regina                  Frank McCrystal
2001     Carlo Panaro                                 OL       6-2       281      Alberta                 Tom Wilkinson
2000     Kevin Lefsrud                              OL       6-4       285      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
1999     Scott Flory                                    OL       6-4       290      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
1998     Bob Beveridge                              OL       6-6       308      UBC                     Casey Smith
1997     Ben Fairbrother                            OL       6-4       305      Calgary                Tony Fasano
1996     Don Blair                                      WR      6-4       280      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1995     Rohn Meyer                                 OL       6-4       280      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1994     Travis Serke                                 OL       6-3       290      Saskatchewan      Brian Towriss
1993     Chris Konrad                                DL       6-3       235      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1992     Jason Rauhaus                              DL       6-1       240      Manitoba              Scott Spurgeon
1991     Mike Pavelec                                OL       6-6       280      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1990     Mark Singer                                  LB       6-0       221      Alberta                 Jim Donlevy
1989     Brent Korte                                   DL       6-1       225      Alberta                 Jim Donlevy
1988     Craig Watson                                OL       6-2       250      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1987     Leo Groenewegen                        OL       6-4       260      UBC                     Frank Smith
1986     Kent Warnock                              DL       6-7       265      Calgary                Peter Connellan
1985     Tom Spoletini                               OL       6-2       270      Calgary               Peter Connellan

EASTERN U SPORTS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME

Year     Player                                          Pos.     Ht.       Wt.      University           Head Coach

2017     Antony Auclair                             TE        6-6       254      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2016     Charles Vaillancourt                     OL       6-4       315      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2015     Daryl Waud                                  DL       6-5       270      Western                Greg Marshall
2014     Laurent Duvernay-Tardif             OL       6-5       315      McGill                  Clint Uttley
2013     Matt Sewell                                   OL       6-8       335      McMaster             Stefan Ptaszek
2012     Arnaud Gascon-Nadon                 DL       6-3       250      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2011     Matthew O’Donnell                      OL       6-10     340      Queen’s               Pat Sheahan
2010     Matt Morencie                              OL       6-3       290      Windsor               Mike Morencie
2009     Étienne Légaré                              DL       6-4       265      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2008     Éric Maranda                                LB       6-2       228      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2008     Samuel Giguère                            WR      6-0       215      Sherbrooke          André Bolduc
2007     Chris Best                                     OL       6-4       320      Waterloo              Marshall Bingeman
2006     Andy Fantuz                                 WR      6-4       220      Western                Larry Haylor
2005     Jesse Lumsden                             RB       6-2       226      McMaster             Marcello Campanaro
2004     Carl Gourgues                              OL       6-1       290      Laval                    Glen Constantin
2003     Adam MacDonald                        LB       5-11     215      StFX                     Dennis McPhee
2002     Kojo Aidoo                                  RB       5-11     235      McMaster             Greg Marshall
2001     Randy Chevrier                            DL       6-4       295      McGill                  Charlie Baillie
2000     Kojo Millington                            DL       6-3       245      Wilfrid Laurier     Rick Zmich
1999     Cameron Legault                          DL       6-3       245      Carleton               Donn Smith
1998     Dave Miller-Johnston                   P/K      6-1       180      Concordia            Pat Sheahan
1997     Mark Farraway                             DL       6-5       260      StFX                     John Stevens
1996     Harry Van Hofwegen                   DL       6-4       252      Carleton               Donn Smith
1995     Matthieu Quiviger                         OL       6-5       282      McGill                  Charlie Baillie
1994     Val St. Germain                            OL       6-4       290      McGill                  Charlie Baillie
1993     Mike O’Shea                                LB       6-3       225      Guelph                 Dan McNally
1992     Chris Morris                                 OL       6-6       285      Toronto                Bob Laycoe
1991     Paul Vajda                                    OL       6-2       265      Concordia            Pat Sheahan
1990     Chris Gioskos                               OL       6-3       275      Ottawa                 Jim Daley
1989     Leroy Blugh                                 LB       6-2       230      Bishop’s               Ian Breck
1988     Pierre Vercheval                           OL       6-2       272      Western                Larry Haylor
1987     Louie Godry                                 OL       6-1       240      Guelph                 Dan McNally
1986     Mike Schad                                   OL       6-5       294      Queen’s               Doug Hargreaves

BREAKDOWN OF U SPORTS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME

By position
Offensive line       34
Defensive line      18
Receivers                8
Linebackers            5
Running backs        2
Safeties                   1
Kickers                   1
TOTAL:               69

By university
Calgary                 12
Laval                      6
Saskatchewan         6
Manitoba                5
Regina                    5
Alberta                    4
McGill                    4
UBC                       3
McMaster                3
Western                  3
Carleton                  2
Concordia               2
Guelph                    2
Queen’s                  2
StFX                       2
Bishop’s                 1
Ottawa                    1
Sherbrooke             1
Simon Fraser           1
Toronto                   1
Waterloo                 1
Wilfrid Laurier        1
Windsor                  1
TOTAL:               69

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