Defensive end Brady Paul, right, who played four seasons with the Leo Hayes St. Mary's Lions, has been projected as one of the top 100 football players in his age category in the country by the Ridley Scouting Service based out of Alberta. With the help of his coach at Leo Hayes, Brent True, left, Paul is exploring his options where to play university ball next season. Three other NBers including Paul Silbey of Leo Hayes and Mitch McCoy of Oromocto High also made the top 100 list.

National recognition for local footballers

By Bill Hunt

Two St. Mary's Leo Hayes Lions are among the top 100 high school football players in Canada, according to an Alberta scouting service.

Grade 12 defensive end Brady Paul and offensive lineman Paul Sibley are both on the list, along with receiver Mitch McCoy of the Oromocto High School Blues and running back Marc McDougall of the Moncton High Purple Knights.

Ridley Scouting director Kent Ridley said linebacker Jake DeWolfe of the New Brunswick 12-man provincial champion Fredericton High School Black Kats is hovering around the top 100 and may be included on the second issue of the list, to be released New Year's Day.

Ridley said the creation "of what we believe to be the first public top player list was two-fold...first, to give a truly national list of the best players in the country. The secondary reason was simply to give more attention to the high school game."

Players are listed alphabetically, rather than ranked numerically.

Ridley estimates there are 6,000 players in Grade 12 or their final year of CEGEP programs in Quebec, "so taking that down to a list of 100 players is a major task," he said.

"The players are rated and graded in the lists we prepare for the universities, but our public list is a generalization of the top players," he said in a email.

He said compiling the list involved gathering information "from people in the area, coaches and reporters. Stories on players, schools and especially season preview reports were very helpful in identifying the top players to then keep tabs on through the season. When we could, we watched game film supplied by schools and at the very least, went through highlight reels of hundreds of players."

Lions' coach Brent True believes Ridley got it right. Both Sibley, 17, and Paul, 18, were among 160 players who attended a Maritime scouting combine at Saint Mary's University in Halifax last February where players are tested on the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press and 1-on 1 drills. Both had good camps - Sibley, a Grade 11 student at the time, finishing second at the combine in bench press to a Grade 12 student from Halifax and were strong in 1-on-1 drills. Both also excelled at the combine True ran as part of the Lions' preseason training camp.

"It's great for our program and great for both those kids," said True. "They're both four-year starters, and there's a big work ethic on both of them. They're gym rats. There's no other sports for them. They're concentrating on football. Both have good grades and they're being recruited heavily by a lot of schools."

Paul, six-foot-one and 210 pounds, finished the season with 51 tackles, nine quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, according to stats posted on the Leo Hayes football website as the Lions completed a 2-5 season in the Western Conference.

Sibley, an offensive lineman, played three games on the defensive line, all against FHS this past season. He had six tackles and blocked a punt. Sibley stands six feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. What True likes, among other things, is his dependability.

"Paul is consistent," he said. "Strength-wise, he could go to most (university) programs in Canada and be in the top 10 per cent in strength. He's high 20s (for repetitions) at 225 pounds. He's just as strong with his legs. Nobody could beat Paul one-on-one last year."

True believes Sibley "is probably the strongest offensive or defensive lineman in the Maritimes" next year. He believes both players could be starters in CIS programs next season.

"Paul Sibley would be one of the strongest offensive linemen, right now, at just about any university in Canada," True said. "I don't think he realizes just how good he could be."

Sibley said he "was pretty pumped up" about seeing his name on the list of the top 100 players in the country.

"I actually was surprised," he said. "I knew I had a good year, but I didn't know I was that good," he said. "I don't like being cocky and I don't want to sound too cocky, but I feel like I could (play in the CIS) right now."

That's a long way from his introduction to the game in Grade 9. He said he was "a terrible football player" then. "I was just kind of a big body. After the season, I said 'This is what I want to do and there's no turning back.' I stepped it up and improved a lot in Grade 10. Every year I improved so much."

His last two years were outstanding, topped off by his best this past season.

"I wanted to go out with a bang and play as hard as I could," he said. "I felt this was my best year."

Paul has been working at the Elite Experience training facility on Main Street since shortly after the facility opened in July. He's a co-op student there for 15 hours per week.

"Basically, he does a power-lifting routine, and it's designed to improve his performance on the field," said Thom Lamb, who calls himself a "strength and lifestyle coach" for the Fredericton native. "It's designed to improve his conditioning, improve his strength. He's a defensive player, so he's got to be able to move players around who are 100 pounds bigger than him. He's doing that pretty effectively."

Paul noticed it this season.

"My endurance was amazing," Paul said. "My footwork was very good. The season didn't end the way we wanted it to, so I don't think it was a great season."

But he said personally, "it was stance and the first few steps out of my stance, I was a lot quicker."

"He works on explosive training," said True. "Both of them trained with Jake Thomas in the summer. I'd come in and here they were out back in 35-degree weather, running sprints or working on the sled or pass rush technique."

"If you're going to be an athlete, you need someone who is holding you accountable to acting like an athlete 24/7," said Lamb. "That's the big difference. It's not just the three hours a week you spend with someone, it's the followup on what you're doing the other hours of the day."

He said when he went to Leo Hayes to demonstrate some training techniques to football players, Paul "was just a sponge."

"He grew up this year," said True. "He turned into a man. This year, he was consistent."

The nine sacks came even though he was double- and triple-teamed most of the season, said True.

Paul has already spoken to Mount Allison University and plans to meet with Acadia head coach Jeff Cummins next week. He talks to Leo Hayes alumnus and current Axemen player Jake Thomas on a regular basis and works out with him when Thomas is in town.

"I train with him whenever he comes back to town and try to pick his brain as much as I can," he said. "He was at our training camp for a bit and I worked on some things with him that really helped me. Just being around certain people and picking their brains is great."

"Jake Thomas is a pretty good kid to emulate," said True. "We have a lot of kids that, the bar is being set high, but they're starting to reach for it."

Paul would like to take his 80 academic average to pursue a kinesiology degree and work in the fitness industry. He's "still debating" whether to stay in the Maritimes or pursue his football prospects elsewhere.

Sibley has heard from schools all over the country, from as far west as UBC.

"My plan is to go to university to play football, and after that, I want to become a police officer," he said.

He's in no hurry to decide.

"I want to see what the playing field is like and see what happens," he said.