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CFL split on inexperienced, intriguing prospect

He is an enigma wrapped in naiveté inside 260 pounds of bulk. Every CFL scout and general manager knows who he is. They just don't know what to do with him.

Take him on as a project? Pass on him altogether?

What is clear is Chris Hodgson is as intriguing as he is indefinable; a mish mash of power and possibility. The son of a Major League Baseball player and competitive figure skater, he's been a skateboarder and snowboarder, a hockey player in the QMJHL, in the East Coast League, the United League, and a member of the University of New Brunswick's national championship-winning team.

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Now, he's a 26-year-old football prospect with only one year's experience at the Canadian university level; a guy who learned much about chasing quarterbacks by watching videos on YouTube.com. And that means come Sunday's Canadian draft, Hodgson could be the "Story of the Day" or the quasi-football player no one wanted.

Either way, he's too irresistible to ignore.

"He was invited to the recent evaluation camp, which means at least three [CFL]teams had to ask for him to be there," assessed Steve Sumarah, Hodgson's football coach at Saint Mary's University. "Everybody's holding their cards pretty close but every one [of the eight CFL teams]has called me about him. Every one."

Little wonder. Hodgson popped eyes when he participated at the 2011 E-Camp in Toronto. There, he was put through the standard drills and surprised onlookers with his agility and a 39.5-inch vertical leap. The scouts noted his father, Paul Hodgson, had played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980. There were thoughts Chris Hodgson could be a special-teams' dynamo that might one day develop into a linebacker or defensive end.

That thinking hasn't changed. But as the draft nears, opinions on Hodgson are varied.

One team official said flat out: "He's not on our draft board." Another suggested his team might spend a late pick on Hodgson "depending on how things play out."

Hodgson knows exactly what has to happen.

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"At this point in my career, I need a coach who likes me and is willing to take a chance on me," he said. "I understand that."

Hodgson's saga sounds a little like Danny Watkins's rise from Kelowna fire fighter to 2011 NFL first-round draft pick in just four years. The difference is Watkins got to start two years at a U.S. junior college before getting two more years of starting time on the offensive line at Baylor University. A robust 6 foot 3 and 310 pounds, Watkins got the best of everything (training, coaching, competition, publicity) and made the most of it.

Hodgson's football career consists of playing bits and pieces last season with Saint Mary's. Hockey was where he got to show what he could do. In the QMJHL, Hodgson first played for Shawinigan on a line with future NHLers Alexandre Burrows and Jason Pominville. He later played in Acadie-Bathurst, as did current Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron. In his best season, Hodgson scored 15 goals and 21 assists in 57 games with Acadie-Bathurst and even logged ice time against Rimouski Océanic wonder kid Sidney Crosby.

Ignored in the NHL draft, Hodgson bounced around the minors, fighting here, scoring there, before joining the UNB Varsity Reds and being part of their 2009 championship season.

Tired of hockey yet keen to do something else, Hodgson thought of football - a sport he once tried when he was 12, a year after his parents had divorced. (His dad moved to Ottawa; Hodgson lived in Fredericton with his mom, a figure skater in her day.)

Football had offered little attraction when he was young. (He gave it up to skateboard and shoot videos so he could land sponsors. Some of his boarding can be seen on YouTube.) But being older, Hodgson found solace in working out and pushing himself in a new direction. He switched sports and schools and showed enough at Saint Mary's to keep his story going.

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. He joined the Globe and Mail in 1997 with an extensive sports background having covered Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, Summer and Winter Olympics, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 1989 Super Bowl riot and the 1989 earthquake World Series. More

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