When Matt Sewell starts the season with a new pair of football cleats, he'll go to great lengths to make sure they last.
The McMaster Marauders hulking offensive lineman isn't superstitious or especially finicky about his footwear. It's just with size 17 feet, finding shoes that fit is a constant challenge.
So when the six-foot-eight, 340-pound Sewell gets his hands on a suitable pair of shoes, he goes the extra mile to ensure they stand the test of time.
"Shoes in general are hard to find but (football) cleats are probably the hardest," he said with a chuckle. "Once I find a pair I stick with them until they're completely gone.
"I just tape them up and hopefully they don't fall apart during the game because if I wanted a new pair of cleats it would be tough to find in mid-season."
With size 17 shoes a rarity in the bargain bin, Sewell often surfs the net looking for footwear and orders them online. That will be put on hold shortly as Sewell will spend Christmas with his family in Mexico.
But only for a week. Then Sewell will resume his search ahead of what promises to be a very busy off-season.
Sewell, a CFL and NFL prospect
Sewell is being considered to play in the 2013 East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. If chosen to play, Sewell will receive pro level coaching during the week-long practices and work out under the watchful eye of scouts representing teams on both sides of the border.
CFL teams are very aware of Sewell, who earlier this month was ranked second among the top-15 ranked prospects for this year's Canadian draft by the league's scouting bureau. Not only will Sewell be put through his paces by CFL scouts at the league's annual evaluation camp in Toronto but he'll also spend a lot of time answering questions in head-to-head interviews.
NFL teams have also reportedly taken note of Sewell's size and quick, nimble feet, which could also result in further workouts and interviews.
Add to that regular training sessions and it's shaping up to be a hectic off-season for Sewell as he auditions for the next phase of his football career.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It should be an exciting few months for me and I think things will work out."
All-Canadian in 2012
Growing up in Milton, Ont., Sewell said he was more a fan of the sport than a specific team and thus has no real preference as to where he might start his pro career.
Sewell was an all-Canadian in 2012 for a second straight year and helped lead McMaster to another Vanier Cup appearance. The Marauders beat Laval 41-38 in double overtime to win a thrilling 2011 Vanier Cup final at B.C. Place before the Rouge et Or exacted some revenge by downing the Marauders 37-14 in last month's rematch at Rogers Centre.
Sewell played left tackle at McMaster, given the important task of protecting Hec Crighton Trophy-winning quarterback Kyle Quinlan's blind side. It's a position he'd like to line up at in the pro ranks.
"I think I have the body shape more for a tackle," he said. "When I was growing up all the minor coaches would tell me, 'If you're going to play offensive line, play left tackle,' and I've always played that position through my entire career."
Ready for the next level
Sewell said working under the guidance of McMaster offensive line coach Jason Riley — a former CFL player with Montreal, Saskatchewan and Hamilton, — he feels he's ready to move up to the next level.
"Coach Riley is a high school teacher by nature so he liked to teach us," Sewell said. "He certainly knows what he's talking about."
Sewell has also shown he can overcome physical adversity.
During his high school career he suffered a knee injury that forced him to the sidelines. After completing his rehab, Sewell opted to attend a prep school in Massachusetts to not only play another year but make sure all was right with his knee.
Convinced it was, he returned to Ontario the following year looking to go to school near home and settled upon McMaster.
"I'm very proud of that (overcoming knee injury), I actually put a lot of work into it," he said. "Football has been great at Mac but most important for me was everything outside of football.
"I've been able to accomplish a lot (in football) but the biggest thing for me is I'm going to be able to graduate with a degree in commerce from one of the top business programs in the country. I think that's the greatest achievement from my university career."