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May 3, 2019

Hogan: Argos go BIG at number one

A week ago, the Toronto Argonauts weren’t one-hundred percent sure about who they would select with the first-overall pick in the 2019 CFL Draft. There were somewhere between five and eight athletes who were still being considered by General Manager Jim Popp and his staff, but that all changed last Friday.

That’s when Oklahoma State offensive lineman Shane Richards emerged as the scouting staff’s consensus choice. On Thursday night the rest of the CFL community found out about the decision when Commissioner Randy Ambrosie made the announcement on TSN.

“I’m ready to get to work now,” Richards told Argonauts.ca. “It didn’t matter if I went first overall, or I went third. I want to show what I can bring to the table.”

He did go first overall, the first time the Argos have picked in that slot since centre Chad Folk was selected No. 1 in the 1997 draft, and that worked out exceptionally well.

The first thing you notice about Richards is his size. He’s a hair under 6’ 6” and tipped the CFL Combine scales at 334 pounds. After a few seconds of conversation, you find out that unlike his on-field persona, he’s a gentle giant off the field.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Calgary, Richards joins an offensive line that featured four Canadian starters last year, centre and fellow Calgarian Sean McEwen, tackle Chris Van Zeyl, and guards Ryan Bomben and Tyler Holmes, all of whom return this season. Left tackle Will Campbell is also back, and the team also added free agent Randy Richards from the Calgary Stampeders, so there is serious depth up front.

Jim Popp says there’s a lot to like about the newest member of that group.

“He’s a strong man,” said Popp of Richards. “He’s a mammoth man that has strength and a punch. He’s really still learning, and we feel there’s things that Coach Dorazio (new offensive line coach Dan) can do with him.”

Richards passed several tests before the Argos were ready to make him the number one pick in the draft.

“We had some visits with players,” the GM explained. “We brought them in, we interviewed them personally, we let the coaches talk to them. We let Coach Dorazio sit down with the offensive linemen, if they played a different position we let that position coach sit down with them. Coach Chamblin met with them. We’ve been through a very thorough process to get where we are to make our number one pick. Some of the players we spoke to, we may get them at number nine (the ninth overall pick in the draft).

Vince Magri is the Argos Director of Canadian Scouting and was all-in on selecting the OSU product.

“We’re very happy, that’s why we’re taking him first overall,” he said with a smile, just prior to the draft. “It was the whole package. It was the film, the background from the coaches at Oklahoma State, the interview process, it was everything.”

Magri is partial to offensive linemen by nature, he was a four-year starter on McMaster’s o-line. He’s impressed with virtually everything about the incoming Argo.

“His size and his physical demeanour definitely stand out when you watch the tape,” Magri told Argonauts.ca. “His ability to physically compete and be aggressive at the position. We found that he’s pro ready.”

When asked what he learned at OSU that best prepared him for the pros, Richards first talked about off-the-field skills like time management, balancing football and school, and making sure his film review habits were strong.

While raw by pro standards, Richards immediately provides flexibility. Last year with the Cowboys he started multiple games at both right guard and right tackle, while also getting practice reps at those positions on the left side. He said he loves playing tackle, but without completing his sentence he went on to say how much he loves playing guard too.

So, what should fans expect?

“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” he said. “If you ask my coaches they’ll say the same thing. I’m going to get the job done. It might not be pretty all the time, but I’m going to get the job done.”

He elaborated.

“At the end of the day it’s did you win the game? Did you get the block done?” Richards continued. “I’m going to get the block done. I’m going to reach my man, or I’m going to block him from getting to the quarterback. If I can’t get it done one way, I’m going to find another way to get it done. That’s how I operate.”

The Argos are hoping he does that in Double Blue for years to come.