Roughriders defensive back Tevaughn Campbell to try hand at rugby sevens

CFL player to try hand at rugby sevens

TORONTO — Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Tevaughn Campbell is headed to the Hong Kong Sevens with the Canadian rugby sevens team.

Coach Damian McGrath calls the trip a “watching brief,” saying the 23-year-old Campbell will train with the team but won’t play.

“He’s going to immerse himself in sevens,” said McGrath. “He came to watch the (Canada) Sevens (tournament) in Vancouver and liked what he saw.

“He’s the type of athlete who’s never touched a rugby ball in his life but has terrific speed and physicality. We’re actively looking outside of rugby for the type of players that we hope can add some quality to our squad.”

The six-foot 200-pounder from Toronto holds the CFL combine record, at least when it comes to electronic timing, in  the 40-yard dash at 4.355 seconds. Steven Turner holds the all-time mark at 4.31, set in 2010 when the league used hand-timing.

In 2016, competing for the University of Regina, Campbell won the men’s 60 metres in 6.67 seconds at the Canadian university track and field championships. Campbell finished second to Guelph’s Kyle Thompson in this year’s final.

“He fancies the opportunity,” said McGrath. “He’d like to have a look and explore it further.

“We’re just going to take him with us to Hong Kong and Singapore as our 14th man. He can train with the players and just have a look at what it takes to play rugby.”

Teams can dress 13 players.

The Canadian men leave Friday for Hong Kong ahead of the April 7 tournament start. The World Series then shifts to Singapore on April 15-16 for the eighth stop on the 10-event circuit.

The Canadian men are currently 10th in the overall standings.

American Perry Baker has become a star since making the transition from football to rugby sevens, registering his 100th try on the World Series circuit at the recent Canada Sevens.

Baker, the nephew of former NFL star Wes Chandler, played football at Division 2 Fairmont State in West Virginia and had a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles before spending two seasons with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League.

A speed merchant, his best 40 time is reportedly 4.32 seconds.

New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner made the U.S. sevens team for the Rio Olympics.

Football players face a cardio shock in rugby sevens. While matches are just seven minutes a half, they go at breakneck speed with nary a break  unlike stop-and-start football.

Still McGrath is hopeful.

“If he’s interested and he shows the aptitude and promise, then we’ll work with him over the next few months to try and bring him into rugby,” said the English coach.

McGrath says Campbell has been working with a former Canadian sevens player at the University of Regina.

The World Series season ends May 21, a week before CFL camps open.

Campbell played 17 games last season for the Roughriders, who acquired him in a February 2016 trade that sent a fourth-pound pick in the 2017 CFL draft to Calgary.

Campbell was drafted in the third round, 22nd overall, by the Stamps in 2015.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press