North Vancouver’s Theo Benedet will get a rare opportunity to showcase his football skills as the sole Canadian university player invited to participate in the prestigious East-West Shrine Bowl all-star event scheduled for Feb. 2 in Las Vegas.
The towering offensive lineman is coming off an outstanding season with the UBC Thunderbirds that saw him earn the J.P. Metra Trophy as the top lineman in the country. Clocking in at six-foot-seven and 305 pounds, Benedet is a Handsworth Secondary grad who has played three seasons with the T-Birds. Nearly all of the other players in the East-West Shrine Bowl come from NCAA Div. 1 teams.
“It’s huge, I’m really happy to get the chance to represent UBC and our program,” said Benedet in a release. “I’ve always been really proud to be a Canadian athlete and play at a Canadian school. I have a little chip on my shoulder to go down there and show we can play too.”
Benedet also earned U Sports 2022 First Team All-Canadian honours for UBC as the T-Birds had one of the top rushing offences in the country last season, on their way to their first Hardy Cup final in four seasons.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s all come, basically a year ago nobody knew who I was,” said Benedet. “It’s an opportunity to get some eyeballs on myself and get my name out there. Obviously I believe in my abilities, I just want the chance to show people I can play.”
It’s a well-deserved honour and opportunity, said UBC head coach Blake Nill.
“This is a platform that will bring more awareness to his skill set and his potential as an elite football player,” Nill said. “He’s earned this and will certainly take full advantage of it. He’s got a God-given gift in his genetics and his athleticism, but he certainly puts in the necessary effort.”
Benedet would have been a strong candidate for first-round selection in the 2023 CFL draft, but instead opted to defer his CFL draft eligible status to 2024. He could, however, still choose to pursue NFL opportunities next season if he is picked in that league’s 2023 draft or signed as a free agent.
“I can play in the Shrine Bowl and still go back to school so it’s a no-lose situation,” he said. “If I do really well and the NFL opportunity is there I can take it, or if the feedback is I need more development I can also head back to UBC and do that.”
The East-West Shrine Bowl will be broadcast live on the NFL Network.