CIS underclassman chases NFL spot Article Comments DAVID NAYLOR From Thursday's Globe and Mail April 1, 2009 at 11:32 PM EDT Though he is yet to play professionally and has just two years of university football under his belt, Vaughn Martin already owns a unique distinction in Canadian sports. He is the country's first university underclassman to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. That alone adds intrigue the story of Vaughn, a 22-year-old, 330-pound defensive lineman who has NFL scouts bombarding the University of Western Ontario with requests for background information and game film, and whose name is popping up all over the Internet on NFL draft discussion boards. Scouts from roughly 20 NFL teams have already come to see Martin at workouts held in Windsor and London, Ont. His schedule beginning next week includes visits to the Carolina Panthers, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams, followed-up by trips to see the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, with many more possible before the NFL draft on April 25-26. Related Information •Carolina Panthers •Cleveland Browns •Miami Dolphins •San Diego Chargers •St. Louis Rams "The NFL teams looking at him have been very interested," Western head coach Greg Marshall said. "And there's a lot of interest. I've talked to at least [20 teams]. I'm getting calls everyday." The notion of a Canadian Interuniversity Sport sophomore declaring himself for the NFL draft sounds preposterous, given that only about a dozen players from Canadian schools have reached the NFL over the past 25 years, mostly playing minimal roles. But Martin's story comes with a few twists and turns. Living in Jamaica until he was nine, he didn't begin playing football until his second year of high school in London when a coach recruited him after he dropped by practice to meet a friend. He began playing at 5 foot 11, 180 pounds and was a running back and linebacker. He quickly grew to 6 foot 4 and more than 300 pounds by the end of high school. "He is one of those genetic athletes, a rare find when I first saw him [at South Secondary School]," said Ron Dias, Canada's top college football talent scout. "As I look back over the years, since 1985, I would say he's one of the top-10 potential great football players I've had the opportunity to scout. His biggest problem was inconsistency. He's got to be consistently challenged to rise. But he's a great, great kid." With Dias's help, Vaughn was offered a scholarship to Michigan State University. But academic issues prevented him from attending and he instead spent two seasons playing in the Central Ontario Football League and enrolling at prep schools in the U.S. in an effort to get his grades up. It was at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., where the seed was planted that Martin would one day play in the NFL. "There were guys who were four- or five-star [high-school] players and I was the same size and had the same athleticism and, most of the time, I was better," Martin said. "Then one of the coaches said to me, 'You could play in the NFL.' That put it in the back of my mind and when I started working harder it became more of a reality." After enrolling at Western in the fall of 2007, Martin began to approach football with a new determination, quickly becoming a dominant player at the CIS level, especially last season. But with no experience playing against top-level U.S. competition, Martin will have to earn his ticket to the NFL on raw physical skills and his superb agility. Martin graded above average in every physical category compared to players at his position who were measured at the NFL combine in February, ranking right among the top prospects for this year's draft. "Athletically, if I can catch someone's attention, they'll like what they see. But they'll think I'm a bit of a project," Martin said. "I'd rather start that sooner than later. I have to go there mentally tough and be in the best shape of my life."