Mississippi State offensive-lineman Justin Senior is measured for flexibility at the NFL football scouting combine Friday, March 3, 2017, in Indianapolis. David J. Phillip / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Justin Senior normally watches the NFL draft on an annual basis. But the agony of tuning in this weekend, combined with the anxiety of awaiting his selection, proved too stressful.
“There’s already pressure enough,” Senior, a 22-year-old Montreal native, said in a telephone interview on Sunday — one day after the Mississippi State offensive-tackle was selected in the sixth round (210th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL draft.
Instead, after awakening on Saturday and working out, Senior returned to his apartment in Starkville, Miss., while making sure his cellphone was fully charged and close at hand. When the call from the Seahawks came in, Senior said he jumped out of his seat in excitement.
“My adrenaline started pumping,” he said. “It feels like I’m one step closer to achieving my goals in life. At the same time, now the work really begins. I’m finally on the last course of the triathlon and I just have to finish. Do what I’m expected to do.
“As the rounds go by, you just think maybe nobody really wants me. Maybe I won’t make it,” he added. “When the call finally comes, it’s like a whole weight’s off your shoulders and you finally have a home, a place to go, a team to represent.
“Seattle’s a great fit.”
While Senior was the only Canadian-born player selected over the seven-round, three-day NFL draft process, three others — including Université Laval tight end Antony Auclair — joined teams as priority undrafted free agents.
Auclair, 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The priority designation indicates the Bucs spent some bonus money on him. Auclair was ranked 19th among tight ends in what was considered a deep draft pool, or likely would have been selected. He held a pro day recently in Quebec City during which 17 NFL teams sent representatives. Ten others brought him in for a visit.
Senior was raised in N.D.G. before the family moved west to Vaudreuil-Dorion and he attended Macdonald high school in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Upon graduation, Senior attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., for six months before enrolling at Mississippi State.
Senior was recruited by other schools, including Syracuse and UCLA, but wanted to compete in the tough Southeastern Conference, knowing there would be games against Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
“If you want to be one of the better players, you have to play with the best,” said the 6-foot-5, 331 pounder.
After red-shirting as a freshman in 2012, Senior began dressing for games the following year, eventually becoming a three-year starter at right-tackle. He started 38 games at the position, including 13 as a senior. The Bulldogs relinquished the second-fewest sacks in the SEC last season. At one point, Senior was blocking for Dak Prescott, now the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback.
Senior, a three-time member of the SEC academic honour roll, graduated early with a degree in sociology and is one course shy from a second degree in political science. In 2016, he captured the Kent Hull Trophy, awarded annually to the state’s top offensive lineman.
The Seahawks are one of the NFL’s strongest teams and haven’t had a losing record since 2011. Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 against Denver, reaching the championship game again the following season, losing to New England. The team finished first in the NFC West last season with a 10-5-1 record.
Head coach Pete Carroll, on the team’s website, said the Seahawks will probably start trying Senior out on the left side when the team convenes in a week for mini-camp, but will move him around.
“I’ll do whatever I can for the team,” Senior vowed. “I’m going to practice my heart out, try as hard as I can. If I end up a starter, that’s what I’ll be. If I end up on the practice squad, that’s what I’ll be. If I end up becoming an alternate, that’s what I’ll do. My objective is to become a better player every week and be useful to the Seahawks.”
Coincidentally, Senior is the top-rated prospect in the Canadian Football League draft to be held May 7, although any team selecting him in the first round would be taking a calculated risk.
Auclair, ranked seventh by the CFL, caught 17 passes for 229 yards and scored two touchdowns in eight games last season. He had 70 yards in receptions and scored once in the Rouge et Or’s Vanier Cup victory against Calgary.
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