If you’ve followed Western Mustangs football for the past two seasons, you’re probably familiar with Vaughn Martin.
What you may not know is that the six-foot-three, 328-pound defensive lineman declared his eligibility for the 2009 National Football League draft last week.
If Martin is drafted or signed as a free agent, he’ll be the 24th Canadian Interuniversity Sport player, and fifth Mustang, to make an NFL roster.
Martin may have played his final down in Purple and Silver, as 24 of the 32 NFL teams have already expressed interest in him.
“The teams that have looked at him like what they’ve seen,” Western head coach Greg Marshall said. “They like Vaughn. They think he’s athletic, they think he’s a good kid and someone that they can coach.”
Martin has already taken the Wonderlic — an aptitude test taken by all prospective draftees — and scored a 38, placing him in the 99th percentile.
As well, Martin tallied 31 reps of the 225-pound bench press, which would place him in a tie for seventh amongst the 53 defensive linemen that were invited to the NFL combine.
Even though Martin was not invited to the combine, his agent, former Mustangs receiver Matt Baxter of Enter-Sports Management, has scheduled two pro days in March for scouts to evaluate his abilities.
“He needed for a few more teams to ask for him to be there,” Baxter said. “It just gives him a couple more weeks to work on his speed and strength.”
Even though Martin has only been playing football since the 10th grade, his athleticism and ability to learn quickly make him attractive to NFL teams.
“There’s a lot of big guys [in the draft], but none as athletic as Vaughn,” Marshall said. “Vaughn’s a big man who moves with a lot of quickness, a lot of agility and a lot of power.”
Yet amidst the excitement of playing professional football, Martin admitted his decision to declare was difficult.
“It’s bittersweet because I really do love it here,” Martin said. “I really love this program. I love the school.”
But after consulting the NFL advisory committee, he was given the thumbs up to pursue the draft.
“They basically look at everything — your film, they call teams, etc. — and they look to see how much interest is out there,” Martin said. “They looked and reviewed my stuff and said, ‘Yeah, you should probably come up this year.’”
Playing in the CIS added an additional incentive, as players retain their eligibility to play university football after declaring for the draft whereas NCAA players do not.
Whether or not Martin will utilize his remaining three years of eligibility is unknown, but teams are definitely interested.
“At the very least, if he goes undrafted, a few teams have already said they would bring him into training camp,” Baxter said.
It is not uncommon for undrafted players to make an impact on their respective teams.
Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates and Adam Vinatieri all went undrafted.
So did Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who helped his team win a Super Bowl and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season.
While it may be too early to speculate, cracking an NFL roster seems like a realistic goal for Martin.
“We’ll make plans that he’s not going to be here,” Marshall said. “If he’s back, then great for us, but we really want to wish him well.”
Despite the possibility of losing one of his best players, Marshall is still confident in his team.
“It’s a win-win situation for us because if Vaughn makes the team in the NFL, it’s good for us,” he said. “Part of my job isn’t just to win championships and [the] Yates Cup; it’s to provide players with opportunities like this.”
Baxter remains optimistic about his client, regardless if Martin’s name is announced in late April.
“It only takes one of the 32 teams to take a chance on him,” Baxter said. “Whoever gets Vaughn will get one of the best steals of this year’s draft.”