15 mai 2024

De grands espoirs pour le grand receveur de rouge et noir Nick Mardner

On Monday afternoon, the Ottawa REDBLACKS made a big addition to their lineup, both in physical stature, and his on-field ability, inking second-overall draft choice Nick Mardner.

The well-travelled receiver spent time playing for Hawaii, Cincinnati, and Auburn collegiately, racking up 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns in his five seasons. Standing at six-foot-six, the Oakville, Ontario native participated in New York Giants minicamp earlier this month, garnering some extra experience.

On his first day in the nation’s capital, Mardner was mainly an observer, still working to understand the intricacies of Tommy Condell’s offence.

“He’s a couple of days late, but we’re super excited to have him,” said REDBLACKS’ Head Coach Bob Dyce. “Coach Travis Moore is going to do a fantastic job with integrating him into the offence, and we’ll do that continually. You saw today, he took some spotted reps to throw him in there, but not immerse him too deep into it just yet.”

Despite his Canadian passport, Mardner has spent the last number of years playing the American variant of the game, forcing a major adjustment before he is entirely ready to go.

“The main thing is having the extra receiver on the field,” Mardner said. “When it comes to learning the concepts, it gives you a little more to look at. Of course, the waggle [is new], but I think that’s going to help me a lot, especially with my stride length. I just have to watch some old film from me back in the day to get back into a groove.”

The challenge will remain ever-present for the 24-year-old, but his work ethic and dedication are evident after only one day on the practice field. Quickly, Mardner surrounded himself by the REDBLACKS’ veterans, including a lengthy session with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli after everyone else had packed up and left for the day.

The Hawaii alumni have swiftly formed a bond over their shared experience playing away from mainland U.S.A., and on top of the extra hours put in away from the field, Mardner is expecting the work to yield positive results as fast as humanly possible.

“These guys even get into the film room before they come in with the coaches,” Dyce said. “We’ll integrate him in those meetings, and Travis [Moore] and Tommy [Condell] will meet with him individually, as well. He’ll have to spend a little extra time with the coaches, but we’ll build him in slowly and continue from there.”

It may not happen instantly, but the ceiling for Mardner is high. Dyce is hoping to keep his confidence high while he adapts to his new surroundings, aiming to foster an environment where the towering red zone threat can thrive.

“We know when he gets up to full speed he’s going to come in and push the other Canadian receivers, and hopefully the whole receiving corps,” Dyce said. “He has a unique skill set, he’s a big target out there, and he has a fantastic catch radius. We’ll probably start him off on the outside, but he has the ability to move inside, as well. He’s a dynamic young man, we really feel he will be an effective target in our offence.”

On paper, Mardner has all of the tools to be a player other teams are forced to dedicate hours of game planning to on a weekly basis, but potential isn’t useful if it’s left unrealized. In college, Mardner – who grew up idolizing Chad Owens – noted that the best is yet to come.

His confidence, however, is high. He says Ottawa is where he is meant to be, and making the step to pro football is something he is ready for.

“I feel like I’m pro-ready,” Mardner said. “I’m excited to learn from some of the guys in the room who have had pro success, guys like Jaelon [Acklin]. I’m going to watch how they work, and try to do the same thing.”