Scouting the talent

Jason Malloy
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Well-known football evaluator Ron Dias makes P.E.I. stop to check out Holland College Hurricanes

Kaeto Okafor hopes he opened some doors to pursue a football career during a workout Tuesday in Charlottetown.

The 19-year-old Nigerian was one of four Holland College football players to work out for well-known evaluator Ron Dias.

"It's awesome. I am so excited," Okafor said in between drills at the combine. "It's a great opportunity for me from where I come from."

The defensive lineman never played the sport until coming to Prince Edward Island. He immediately took to the sport and saw the workout as an opportunity to showcase his talents to a broader audience.

"I just hope I impress them," said the second-year economics student at UPEI.

Dias has been crossing the country for 27 years looking for talented high school and junior football players. In the mid 1980s he was coaching the University of Waterloo, which had one of the worst teams in the country at the time, and wondered how he could recruit top players to his program.

"The only answer I found is you have to pack your bag, get on a plane and go out and find these people," he said.

He hosts a series of clinics, camps and all-star games and documents the players' progress. Universities and colleges tap into that information when they recruit players.

He has helped players like quarterback Jesse Palmer land in Florida to play for the Gators. Dias estimated each CFL team would have eight to 10 players he has been involved with, directly or indirectly, during their careers.

He said the players he saw Tuesday showed "tremendous amount of athletic potential" and was impressed with the Holland College program.

"What I see here on P.E.I. is tremendous potential," Dias said. "This could be a fantastic launching pad for a lot of football players to have an opportunities to go on to get a university education, get a degree, and, hey, play some football at the same time."

Paul Maines is one of the players who know what having Dias scout them can do. Twenty-seven years ago the Montreal native was ranked by the scout.

"(College officials) would go up to a super guru like him . . . and say who's your top-five picks," he said.

The defensive lineman was recruited by Penn State and Purdue among others before committing to University of Tulsa at Oklahoma. He went on to play four years in the CFL and have seven knee surgeries.

"I am just one of hundreds of guys who credit Ron," said Maines, who now coaches the Hurricanes' d-line. "You don't get to the next level unless you have exposure. . ."

Nathan Conway played on the Hurricanes' d-line this year. He said working for Dias was a great opportunity.

"It means a lot because I can showcase my skills for universities . . . that I would never get a chance to," he said.

Mike O'Grady, president of Holland College football operations, said it was a good day for the third-year program.

"It's a tremendous profile for our program and a tremendous opportunity for the individual players here," he said. "Ron is the guy who can help them find a good fit at a program at another school."

At a glance

Got A Look

The following are the Holland College football players who worked out for Ron Dias:

Dale Pickstock Jr.

Position: Offensive lineman

Size: Six-foot-four, 365 pounds

From: Nassau, Bahamas

Jonathan Gallant

Position: Defensive back

Size: Five-foot-nine, 175 pounds

From: Souris

Nathan Conway

Position: Defensive lineman

Size: Six-foot-two, 250 pounds

From: Souris

Kaeto Okafor

Position: Defensive end

Size: Six-foot-three, 234 pounds

From: Nigeria

Organizations: Holland College, UPEI, University of Waterloo University of Tulsa

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Florida Montreal Penn Oklahoma Nassau Bahamas Nigeria

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