Edmonton

U of A Golden Bear draws interest from 18 NFL teams

The next couple of weeks will be the most important weeks of Mark Korte's professional football career.

Offensive tackle Mark Korte caught the eye of scouts at American collegiate all-star game

Mark Korte, #65, will be working out for NFL scouts on March 27. (Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics/Supplied)

The next couple of weeks will be the most important weeks of Mark Korte's professional football career.

Korte, an offensive lineman for the University of Alberta Golden Bears, will first try to impress CFL scouts at their combine in Winnipeg from March 21 to 25.

But two days after that, Korte will work out for NFL scouts.

Korte, listed at six foot four and 280 pounds, has been on the radar of CFL teams for a while — but only recently was placed on the radar of NFL scouts after his performance in the annual East-West Shrine all-star game in Florida.

The Shrine Game is a mostly-American collegiate game for college seniors.

However Canadian players are eligible to be invited and Korte, one of two invitees this year, played a solid game.

That game alone led to calls from 18 NFL teams to Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris.

Korte was first noticed by scouts at the annual East-West Shrine Game in Florida. (Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics/Supplied)

"There is significant interest," Morris told CBC's Radio Active Thursday. "They saw him there, and that obviously tweaked a bunch of people's interest, and now they want to see a closer look at him."

Morris isn't sure how many teams are making the trip to work out Korte, but said he's not surprised at the interest — he said Korte has been in the conversation for the first pick overall in the CFL draft this upcoming season.

Working on size

Just like the dreams of most kids playing organized sports, Korte has always wanted to play professional football.

He loved his time spent playing for the University of Alberta Golden Bears, playing for four years and most recently leading the Golden Bears to a first-ranked rushing offence in the country.

He also helped his teammate, running back Ed Ilnicki, receive the Hec Crighton Trophy for the most outstanding Canadian university player.

But he never thought he could play in the best football league in the world until he was invited to the East-West Shrine Game.

"That's kind of when it kicked in that, you know, you're in an all-star game, it's a scouting thing for the NFL, and they're really looking at you and they're considering you seriously," Korte told Radio Active.

While he prepares for his upcoming workouts, Korte is busy putting on weight. In his NFL draft profile, his size is a primary concern.

But since that profile was written, Korte has gained almost 20 pounds, now closing in on 300 pounds.

"It was no secret to me before that size is something I had to build on," Korte said. "If that's one of the big knocks on me, the fact that it's coming along well is reassuring for sure."

It was no secret to me before that size is something I had to build on.- Mark Korte

Another weakness listed in Korte's draft profile is playing against weaker competition in Canadian university-level sports. But Morris said that hasn't stopped other Canadian players before him and it won't stop Korte, either.

"I think his athleticism trumps all that," Morris said. "They're just looking for the best possible athletes and if they think that Mark is a good enough athlete to be down there, someone will get him down there and try to work with him and develop him."

'I can't lose'

Faced with many options heading into his final year of eligibility with the University of Alberta, Korte will just let the next couple of months play out before he makes a decision.

He's likely to be drafted into the CFL this year, currently the 12th-ranked prospect on the CFL's draft board. But he may also opt to finish out his career with the University of Alberta before he moves on to the professional chapter of his career.

Korte's biggest weakness, according to draft profiles, is his size. But since that profile was made, he's already gained 20 pounds. (Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics/Supplied)

But if he impresses NFL scouts enough for them to take him on, Morris expects that might be where Korte would go.

"If he can get any sort of chance to play down south, that's obviously a life-changing experience," he said. "I think the pursuit of that is the number one priority."

For Korte, he's just happy to play football.

"I'm in a spot where I can't lose going into this — I can either play professional football or play at the U of A," he said.

"Either way, I'm going to be over the moon."