EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Every Giants fan knows they have the player selected second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, running back Saquon Barkley. What is not widely known is that this weekend, they also have the first overall choice – of the Canadian Football League draft.
Former Central Michigan wide receiver Mark Chapman was chosen No. 1 by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL draft on May 3. This weekend, he is participating in the Giants’ rookie minicamp as a tryout player.
“It has been fun,” Chapman said after practice yesterday. “It has been nice to adjust myself to being a professional. There are great coaches around here and great athletes. I love competition. It has been great for me to challenge myself against great athletes and get great coaching along the way. I am just soaking it all in.”
Also trying out for the Giants is the fourth selection in the CFL draft, center Mark Korte, who played at the University of Alberta and was chosen by the Ottawa Redblacks.
“Either way, I'm going to get a chance to play professional football,” Korte said. “I'd like to stay down here with the Giants. If that's not the case, then I'll be very happy to join the Redblacks in the CFL.”
Players from Canadian Universities, along with Canadian players in the NCAA, are eligible for the CFL draft. Chapman’s mother, Pattie, was born in Sarnia, Ontario, while his father, James Chapman, was born in Port Huron, Mich., where the family currently lives. Mark has dual citizenship.
Last year, he started all 12 games for Central Michigan and caught 43 passes for 559 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers caught the attention of the Tiger-Cats (or Ticats), who made a trade with the Montreal Alouettes for the top pick.
On draft night, Chapman was at home with family and friends. But he already knew where he was going.
“They (the Ticats) had let me know that morning,” he said. “They said, ‘We are going to take you, congratulations, but try and act surprised because we are going to be live.’ I said, ‘I got you, I can act.’”
Chapman is in a perfect spot. Hamilton is two hours from Port Huron, about 30 minutes closer than Central Michigan is.
The Tiger-Cats are coached by June Jones, the former coach of the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers, who was an early proponent of the spread offense. The CFL has 12 players to a side, a longer and wider field, and Jones takes advantage of the rules that allow receivers to get a running start at the line of scrimmage.
“I think a lot of the different rules makes it a more offensive game,” Chapman said. “There are things that I can utilize as a wideout, so I am excited about that.”
The Ticats were amenable to him spending this weekend with the Giants.
“They told me to give it a shot and to give it my all, same with my family,” Chapman said. “They said that they were rooting for me and that whatever happens, happens, but they are behind me in my decision to attend the camp.”
If the Giants don’t sign him, he will be in training camp with the Tiger-Cats later this month. There’s always a chance a productive season in the CFL will attract interest from NFL teams.
“I am looking to get some great production, get some great stats, and put up some great film,” he said. “Maybe down the road, I will give it another go around over here.”
If not, Chapman can always say he was selected first in the CFL draft.
“It is definitely surreal for me,” he said. “I never anticipated being first. I knew I was good, but to be first overall is a great experience for me. I am a humble guy, but even I was like, ‘Dang, that is pretty freaking sweet.’ There is a lot of pride with it, but I also want to show them that they made the right decision. It makes me work even harder. It is awesome, though. It is something that I will be very proud of.”
*Korte found the perfect person to help him prepare for his tryout. Brett Jones, the Giants’ starting center, is a Canadian who played at the University of Regina.
“We actually chatted a week before I came down here,” Korta said. “We've got a bit of a connection through a former coach. He was a great resource for me. He gave me the inside track on some things coming into minicamp, so I'm really thankful that he reached out and we had a good chat.”