Bo Adebayo anxious to take advantage of new lease on his football life

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Bo Adebayo has a new lease on his football life.

When the six-foot-three, 265-pound defensive end began his senior season at Western Kentucky last fall, it was with the knowledge he might be playing football for the last time. Although eligible for the 2012 NFL draft, Adebayo figured if he didn't make it there he'd have to hang up his cleats and get a real job.

After being bypassed in last week's NFL draft, Adebayo can set his sights on a pro career in Canada, thanks to his roots.

The 24-year-old was born in Edmonton and spent eight years in Alberta before moving to the U.S, and growing up in Georgia. At Western Kentucky, Adebayo's top goal was to reach the NFL and the idea of returning to Canada to play football was nowhere on his radar.

But when he did learn that the CFL was a viable option, Adebayo successfully applied to the league for non-import status at this year's draft, which will be held Thursday.

"The biggest thing for me is I want to keep playing," Adebayo said via telephone from Bowling Green, Ky., on Monday. "I feel like I still have so much more I can do and show on the field.

"To be honest, I never really thought about (playing in CFL) because I was so focused on trying to make it to the NFL. My coaches used to talk to me about it in practice and that's when I started thinking I should look into that as maybe a backup plan but now it's going to be the main plan."

Adebayo's mother was attending nursing school in Edmonton when he was born while his father worked as a university professor. He's the youngest of four boys but the only member of his family to be born in Canada.

And Adebayo can't wait to return.

"I've been looking forward (to the CFL draft) for a very long time and having the opportunity to return to Canada and play football," he said. "It's just a great opportunity.

"I still have friends and people who used to hang out with my family when we lived there."

Adebayo was an honourable mention all-Sun Belt Conference player last year after posting career highs in tackles (31), sacks (four) and tackles for a loss (8.5) in nine starts, meaning more than a third of his stops came behind the line of scrimmage. Although he was granted non-import status too late to be included on the CFL Scouting Bureau's top-15 list, Adebayo is expected to go in the first two rounds of Thursday's draft.

With Adebayo only recently receiving his non-import status, CFL teams are busy familiarizing themselves about him heading into the draft. Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Brendan Taman has the first pick overall and while it's very unlikely he'll use it on Adebayo, Taman isn't sure Adebayo will still be available when the Riders pick again at No. 15 to open the third round.

"He's definitely a draft pick, how high or low depends on teams' needs and opinions on him," Taman said. "But he's in the process of being a pretty decent prospect, that's for sure."

Saskatchewan Huskies guard Ben Heenan remains the consensus No. 1 pick and Taman said Monday he has spoken to other CFL GMs about the top selection. Taman said he hasn't received an offer that matches his asking price of a 2012 first-round pick, a future selection and-or Canadian player.

"We've had emails or calls from some teams . . . and some of it has been somewhat serious, some has been exploratory and some hasn't been very serious," Taman said. "The price might be steep for most teams if not all of them, and that's fine.

"We're the ones in the driver's seat here so we'll control what we control and right now we control the No. 1 pick."

Adebayo would certainly fill a need for the B.C. Lions, who are thin at defensive end with the recent retirement of veteran Canadian Brent Johnson. Adebayo said he worked out this off-season for the defending Grey Cup champions, who have three picks in the first two rounds (the fourth, seventh and 14th).

"I've worked out for B.C. and Hamilton and have talked to just about every team except Edmonton," Adebayo said. "The CFL is a passing league and pass rush is my specialty so that's exciting to me."

Adebayo wasn't invited to either the NFL combine or CFL evaluation camp but posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds at Western Kentucky's pro day. He also had a vertical leap of 32 inches and 18 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Adebayo has the long arms (33 3/4 inches) many scouts like defensive linemen to have so they can create separation from opposing offensive linemen and dictate the flow up front. Adebayo also has a long reach (78 inches), which can be an asset both against the run and rushing the passer.

However, Adebayo will have some ground to make up in a CFL camp, adjusting not only to life as a full-time pro as well as the many nuances of Canadian football, most notably lining up a yard off the ball.

NOTES: The Montreal Alouettes will have to wait to see 2011 draft picks Philip Blake and Brody McKnight. Blake, a Toronto-born centre from Baylor who Montreal selected in the third round last year, was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos on Friday. Brody, a kicker from Vancouver who was the Alouettes' first-round selection (eighth overall) from the University of Montana, hassigned with the New York Jets as a free agent . . . Austin Pasztor of Langton, Ont., a guard at Virginia, signed as a free agent with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Pasztor is the fourth-ranked prospect heading into Thursday's draft . . . Boise State defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, a native of Windsor, Ont., was the top-ranked CFL draft prospect but he'll definitely be a future selection after being taken in the third round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. The same with Ottawa's Christo Bilukidi, a defensive lineman from Georgia State who was taken in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders. Bilukidi is ranked No. 6 on the CFL's scouting bureau top-15 list.