A Vernon football player will get a chance to show his talent south of the border.
Ben Hladik of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds is one of seven players selected from Canadian universities to take part in the 2021 College Gridiron Showcase (CGS) Jan. 17-21 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Since the inaugural event in 2015, more than 500 CGS participants have been offered professional opportunities.
The 2020 showcase saw scouts from 31 of the 32 National Football League (NFL) teams, all nine Canadian Football League (CFL) and other professional leagues on hand to evaluate and meet the players.
Hladik, a linebacker at the Point Grey campus, was ranked 16th in the latest Canadian Scouting Bureau rankings.
He joined the T-Birds after being named the Most Valuable Player in B.C. AA High School with the Vernon Panthers. Hladik was named Canada West Defensive Player of the Year and U-SPORTS All-Canadian in 2018. And, in the last year he played, 2019, Hladik was fourth in the Canada West Conference in tackles with 39 solo and 19 assists for 58 tackles.
Hladik has etched his name eight times into the Thunderbirds’ defensive record book, appearing in the top-10 in most tackles for a loss in a season (No. 2, 14.5 in 2018, No. 6, 11, 2017), most tackles for a loss, career (No. 2, 30.5), most tackles for a loss, single game (one of seven players at No. 2 with four; Hladik did it twice in 2018), most assisted tackles, career (No. 7, 75), total career tackles (No. 7, 189), most forced fumbles, season (one of seven players tied at No. 2, 3) and most career fumble recoveries (one of five players at No. 2 with seven). He is one of 23 UBC defenders to return an interception for a touchdown in his career.
The 2019 Vanier Cup Canadian U-SPORTS football champion University of Calgary Dinos had five players chosen to the CGS. The other Canadian is from the University of Montreal Carabins.
Five former Vernon Panthers are on the Calgary Dinos roster, including third-year defensive lineman Josh Hyer, who helped the Dinos win the Vanier Cup in 2019.
There was no U-SPORTS men’s football season in 2020 due to COVID-19.