Former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik of the UBC Thunderbirds (right, in action against the Alberta Golden Bears) is expected to be chosen in Tuesday’s Canadian Football League draft. (Bob Frid - UBC Thunderbirds photo)

Former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik of the UBC Thunderbirds (right, in action against the Alberta Golden Bears) is expected to be chosen in Tuesday’s Canadian Football League draft. (Bob Frid - UBC Thunderbirds photo)

Canadian Football League clubs high on Okanagan player

Former Vernon Panthers provincial MVP Ben Hladik of UBC expected to be chosen in CFL draft Tuesday, May 4

If it’s his home province B.C. Lions calling his name, fantastic.

If it’s the Montreal Alouettes, terrific. No matter which of the nine Canadian Football League teams that calls his name in Tuesday’s CFL draft, Vernon’s Ben Hladik will be thrilled. A dream of his will have been reached.

“I can’t wait, this is what I’ve waiting for for a long time,” said Hladik, 22, a star linebacker with the UBC Thunderbirds who has been back in his hometown staying with his parents since COVID hit in 2020. “It’s what I’ve been practicing for. It’s what I’ve been playing for and what I’ve been putting in all of the effort for.”

There will be six rounds in Tuesday’s draft. The Hamilton Tiger Cats have the first overall pick. TSN CFL writer Marshall Ferguson has Hladik going fourth overall to the Lions in his final mock draft.

“The star of combine season, Hladik posted looney tunes numbers to match his monster’s frame,” wrote Ferguson. “At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, the BC native ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and lifted 225 pounds 29 times on the bench press. Hladik is much more than a number though.

“He was a defensive captain for the Thunderbirds in 2018 and 2019 to go along with back-to-back Canada West All-Star and U SPORTS All-Canadian nods.”

Whichever club selects him, they’re going to get in Hladik, as 3downnation.com describes, “a physical freak.” The website has Hladik ranked as the second overall linebacker behind Calgary’s Amen Ogbongbemiga, who plays in the U.S. NCAA Div. 1 college ranks with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

“He (Hladik) put 29 reps on the bench, ran a 4.66 forty (40-yard dash), jumped 10-feet seven-inches and showed off his bend with the devil’s three-cone with a scary 6.66 seconds,” said the website, devoted to the CFL. “That athleticism translates to the field where he’s made 30.5 tackles for a loss in 28 games for the Thunderbirds despite what some consider a disappointing 2019 season.”

UBC went 2-6 in 2019. Hladik, studying psychology, missed his senior year with the T-Birds due to COVID. He was a U-SPORT All-Canadian in 2018. Hladik led the Vernon Panthers to their first B.C. AA Subway Bowl high school football championship game in 2016, where they lost to the No. 1 ranked Seaquam Seahawks of Delta. Hladik became the first Vernon player to be named provincial AA MVP that season.

Whichever team picks Hladik Tuesday, they will get a player ready to start his professional career.

“Whoever picks me will get a player that can come in and make an impact whether it’s on defence or on special teams,” said Hladik. “As soon as I get to training camp, I’ll be looking to make an impact.”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced on April 21 that the league would return to play in 2021 after cancelling 2020 due to COVID.

The league is planning a 14-game season starting on Aug. 5 (league normally starts in June) and the Grey Cup, usually held on the last Sunday in November, is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Hamilton. League plans are subject to the state of COVID-19 across the country.

READ MORE: Vernon football star to showcase talent in front of scouts

READ MORE: Vernon football standout ranks CFL coverage

READ MORE: Ben Hladik of Vernon named U-Sports All-Canadian



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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