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UBC tackle, Penn State tight end, Illinois lineman among Canadians selected in NFL Draft | Globalnews.ca

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It didn’t happen when Canadian Theo Johnson thought it would, but he landed where he wanted to.

The New York Giants selected the Penn State tight end as the seventh pick of the fourth round, No. 107 overall, of the NFL draft on Saturday. Johnson had been projected as a possible second-day selection.

“(That) wasn’t in the cards for me but I think I got picked exactly when I was supposed to and exactly where I was supposed to,” Johnson told reporters in New York after his selection. “Since the beginning of this process, the Giants were very clear with their interest in me.

“Went to school and worked with Christian Daboll (Giants head coach Brian Daboll’s son) when he was at Penn State. So pretty early on, they showed a lot of interest and it was clear that this was definitely a potential landing spot for me.”

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Johnson became the second Canadian off the board. Isaiah Adams of Ajax, Ont., an offensive lineman at Illinois University, was taken in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday

Nineteen selections later, the Detroit Lions took tackle Giovanni Manu of the University of British Columbia. Manu was born in Tonga and went to high school in Pitt Meadows, B.C.

The six-foot-six, 260-pound Johnson of Windsor, Ont., appeared in 45 games over four seasons at Penn State, recording 77 catches for 938 yards and 12 TDs. Last season, he registered career highs in receptions (34), yards (341) and touchdowns (seven — tied for team lead) and was an honourable mention All-Big Ten selection.


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After participating in the Senior Bowl, Johnson performed well at the NFL combine, posting a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical, 10 foot five inch broad jump — all second-best results — and a short-shuttle time of 4.19 seconds that topped the position group. Johnson could fill a big need for the Giants with veteran tight end Darren Waller pondering retirement.

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“He runs like a wide receiver,” said Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL Network’s draft guru. “I thought he aced the spring. From what we saw at the Senior Bowl, the all-star circuit, he was excellent there. Then the combine, pro day, you name it, that’s where he really upped his stock.”

Johnson said he hasn’t talked to the Giants regarding where he fits on the roster.

“What I do know is I’m going to come in and I’m going to work from Day 1 and whatever role I earn will be one that I earned,” he said. “I’m going to do my very best to show everybody in the building that I deserve to be taken seriously. I’m definitely capable of being a tight end you can’t take off the field with all the attributes that I have and I’m going to work for that.”

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Jeremiah had Johnson listed at No. 82 on his top-200 draft prospects. He also pegged Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan of Lethbridge Alta., at No. 68.

Earlier this month, Johnson was listed at second overall in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of the top-20 prospects for the league’s 2024 draft, which will be held Tuesday night.

The towering six-foot-eight, 350-pound Manu and highly touted teammate Theo Benedet anchored a UBC offensive line that allowed 15 sacks and helped the offence average 6.8 yards per rush. The Thunderbirds reached the Vanier Cup last year, dropping a 16-9 decision to the Montreal Carabins. Still, it was UBC’s first appearance in the Canadian university football championship game since 2015.

Manu became the first UBC player to be taken in the NFL draft.

“A massive human being,” Jeremiah said. “As you could imagine this is going to very much be a work in progress. This is a big, powerful player that’s going to be a fun project for them to take on.”

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Manu didn’t attend the NFL combine but 16 teams attended his workout during UBC’s pro day. He posted a 5.03-second 40-yard dash and had 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

Earlier this off-season, Detroit signed Canadian defensive lineman Mathieu Betts, who was the CFL’s top defensive player last season with the B.C. Lions. Manu made a pre-draft visit with the Lions (12-5, first NFC North), who reached the NFC championship game in 2023 before losing 34-31 to the San Francisco 49ers.

Detroit appears set at tackle with Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker but looked to improve its overall depth.

Manu was also listed in eighth spot on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list.

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