It was shortly after 10 a.m. locally but still a good time for Linden Gaydosh to celebrate.
Moments after going first overall to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL draft on Monday, the Calgary Dinos rugged defensive lineman honoured the occasion by cracking open a cold one at his Peace River, Alta., home.
"[The celebration] is going very well," Gaydosh told reporters during a CFL conference call four hours later. "I've had a couple for sure.
"They're probably the best beers I've ever had."
Gaydosh's selection was hardly surprising.
The six-foot-three, 314-pound Gaydosh was the third-ranked prospect according to the CFL's scouting bureau and impressed at the league combine in March with his raw power and athleticism. And with this year's shallow talent pool, Gaydosh's stock skyrocketed leading up to the draft with six of the seven top prospects either returning to school or garnering serious NFL interest.
That made Gaydosh a hot commodity as Ticats coach/GM Kent Austin said he entertained trade offers for the No. 1 pick but none were to his liking.
"We didn't feel like the value was there and in most cases, not even close," Austin said. "It didn't get very serious in our mind."
Especially, Austin said, considering what the Ticats figured they were getting in Gaydosh.
"He's very aggressive, he's very strong and very agile for his size," Austin said. "The guy really loves football and we want guys who love the game and will commit at a high level and, as they say, pay the price to be great.
"I think Linden has those qualities."
Gaydosh registered 90.5 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for a loss at Calgary, helping the Dinos win four straight Canada West championships. Gaydosh was Canadian university football's top rookie in 2009 and Hardy Cup defensive MVP the following year.
Gaydosh joins slotback Don Blair (1996, Edmonton) and defensive end Kent Warnock (1986, Calgary) as Dinos taken first overall. But Hamilton will have to wait because Gaydosh wants to first exhaust his NFL options before putting his signature on a CFL deal.
"The NFL option is in my head and I don't want to close that door until I absolutely have to before I commit to the CFL," Gaydosh said. "If nothing happens by training camp, I'll fully commit 100 per cent."
Even with Gaydosh off the board, Winnipeg looked for defensive line help but from a surprising source. The Blue Bombers, whose 6-12 record last year was tied with Hamilton for the CFL's worst, took Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Andy Mulumba at No. 2 despite Mulumba being under contract to the NFL's Green Bay Packers.
Bomber general manager Joe Mack said he would've been happy with either Gaydosh or Mulumba.
"We were going back and forth . . . we really liked Linden Gaydosh a lot and there was maybe a slight tick up for him because he's available right away," Mack said. "But you know Andy Mulumba is a hard worker, he's a good kid, he plays hard and actually may be a little more versatile.
"We certainly wish him the best [with Green Bay] but we think the chances are at least 50-50 we'll see him some time this year."
The six-foot-four, 263-pound Mulumba, a Montreal native, had 156 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles at Eastern Michigan. Mulumba was stunned to go second overall and said while flattered, Winnipeg is his second option.
"Because of the fact I already signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers, I want to try that first and see where we go from there," he said. "I'm really excited about being selected second . . . but I aspire to play in the NFL.
"If that doesn't work I'll be really proud to be a Blue Bomber."
Mack again raised eyebrows in the second by taking Concordia defensive back Kris Robertston. The five-foot-eight, 185-pound native of Pickering, Ont., tested well at the combine and can return kicks but questions exist whether he's big enough to cover bigger CFL receivers and the prevailing thought was he'd been available later on.
Montreal also looked to Calgary for its two first-round picks, taking highly regarded linebacker Mike Edem at No. 3, then running back Steven Lumbala two selections later. The six-foot-one, 200-pound Edem, a native of Brampton, Ont., will likely move to safety in the CFL but gives the Alouettes a player who can contribute immediately on special teams while adjusting to a pro defence.
"We got a tremendous athlete in Edem that can compete for a starting job and/or can at least be a backup to maintain ratio," Alouettes GM Jim Popp said. "Lumbala can do the same thing.
"We weren't sure we'd get one of those guys. It's a positive when guys have played each other and know each other. They obviously have a comfort level. They're teammates and family, it's a huge positive."
The selection of Lumbala, though, was a surprise considering Montreal acquired Canadian tailback Jerome Messam from Edmonton this off-season. Lumbala, the younger brother of B.C. Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala, was a Canada West all-star last year after rushing for 993 combined yards.
Corey Watman, a rugged six-foot-two, 294-pound offensive lineman from Eastern Michigan, was the first offensive player taken in the first round at No. 4 by Saskatchewan. The native of Queensville, Ont., started 30-of-46 collegiate games and last season split time at guard and centre.
B.C. then kicked off a futures trend by taking Liberty offensive lineman Hunter Steward at No. 6. The six-foot-seven, 285-pound native of Kingston, Ont., moved to Virginia Beach, Va., before his senior year of high school.
The Calgary Stampeders followed suit selecting offensive lineman Brander Craighead, who'll return to the University of Texas at El Paso this fall. The defending Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts took McMaster offensive lineman Matt Sewell at No. 8 even though the six-foot-eight, 335-pound Sewell, of Milton, Ont., had signed with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
"He could go down there and be a 10-year NFL veteran, you never know," Argos GM Jim Barker said. "When you get your pick, you have to place value on who is the best value for that pick and we felt like Matt was the best for us."
Expansion Ottawa makes picks
Expansion Ottawa — slated to return to the CFL in 2014 — finished the first round by taking offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan, who'll returning to Iowa this fall. Ottawa finished with four NCAA underclassmen picks — a surprise given the early run on returning players — but will be a full participant in next year's draft.
After MacMillan, Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins selected Utah State defensive lineman Connor Williams in the second round before taking Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Kalonji Kashama — whose three older brothers all played in the CFL — in the third and Robert Morris tight end Tyler Digby in the fourth.
Ottawa will be the final CFL team to draft NCAA underclassmen as Desjardins said league teams will only be allowed to take university seniors starting next season.
"The Ottawa club is very fortunate to be able to select redshirt juniors this year," he said. "The first two, we had high hopes for.
"The other two are very good football players and the fact they'll be able to go to school and get even better will obviously be beneficial to us and the players."
The Edmonton Eskimos made their first pick to start of the second round and used it to take Regina Rams defensive lineman Stefan Charles at No. 10. The six-foot-five, 324-pound Charles was a bona-fide No. 1 overall prospect before signing with the Tennessee Titans.
"We chose the best player available to us as was our plan going into this draft," said Eskimos GM Ed Hervey. "We know we're going to have to wait awhile.
"He is physical, tough and plays with an edge. He has the attitude we want to reinforce to our football team."
Calgary had a solid second round by taking McMaster defensive end Ben D'Aguilar and Regina offensive lineman Brent Jones. D'Aguilar, who had a Canadian university-record 12.5 sacks last year, was available because at No. 13 because he's attending NFL tryouts.
Hamilton selected Wagner linebacker C.O. Prime in the third round because he had already signed a deal with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts while the B.C. Lions got linebacker Bo Lokombo — central scouting's top-ranked draft prospect — with the third pick of the third round because he's returning to Oregon this fall and has NFL aspirations.
Winnipeg took UBC kicker Billy Pavlopoulos in the seventh and final round. Pavlopoulos failed an out-of-competition drug test for the anabolic steroid stanozolol Jan. 9, 2012 and was suspended until January 2014, using up his final two years of CIS eligibility.