Christian Covington of the Rice Owls sacks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during a NCAA game. Covington

Christian Covington of the Rice Owls sacks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during a NCAA game. Covington

Covington confident prior to NFL draft

Surrey native chasing a dream of playing professionally

The next few days will be the biggest in the life of Christian Covington.

After playing three seasons of NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) football with the Rice Owls in Houston, Texas, the 21-year-old has declared himself eligible for the National Football League (NFL) Draft.

And if the countless mock drafts on football websites – and reports posted by the NFL on its own site – are accurate, Covington will be among a handful of Canadians chosen. Just 30 Canadians have been drafted over the past three decades.

“I’m nervous, I’m anxious,” he admitted. “I want to get it over with and go back to football. But it’s a process, and you have to allow the process to unravel at its own pace.”

Covington is back in Surrey, at home with his parents, where friends and family will join him to watch this weekend’s draft.

“This is very much a good mental break,” he told The Leader Sunday, taking break from power-washing the driveway. “I find myself at my most relaxed when I’m with my family.”

The first round, with each of the 32 NFL teams making one selection, takes place Thursday night. The second and third rounds are Friday evening, with rounds four through seven set for Saturday. Covington admits it will be difficult to watch while waiting to hear his name mentioned, adding his father, Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Grover Covington, is “kind of stressing out, too.”

“I’m watching. I’m gonna be right here at home,” Christian said. “I have family coming in from Winnipeg, from California, from Houston. Just to have family and good friends around me, nothing better than that.

“Hopefully it’s over quick. Realistically, I’m hoping to hear my name called Friday. If not, I just get to have that time with my family for that much longer.”

Since he left for Rice University in 2011, his visits home have been few, and usually short. His current stay ranks among the longest, and is a welcome break from academics and athletics, both of which he excelled at during his  four years in Houston.

Expected to receive his degree in Kinesiology and Sports Medicine in December, Covington redshirted (practised, but did not play) in 2011. He played in 12 games as a freshman in 2012, and in 2013 was a Conference USA all-star while recording 59 tackles and four sacks on an Owls team which won the conference championship.

Covington said the championship was what he will remember most about being an Owl.

“Not many players can say they’ve been on a team that’s a part of school history,” he said. “It was the first one in 56 years, it was unbelievable.”

A knee injury limited his participation to just seven games last season, and has some critics wondering about his decision to enter the draft. The injury sidelined him for the final five games of the schedule, as well as the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 in Honolulu.

“It was a hard decision for me,” Covington admitted. “Going into the bowl game, it was my understanding I was probably going back to Rice for my fifth year. But once I was able to get away from football and school life, I took that time to come come and settle down, be with my family, and think about what’s best for me. I thought this was an opportunity to capture a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid.

“I don’t regret my decision, I’m fully recovered. People told me, with my knee injury, I wouldn’t be able to do anything for six months. I said to myself I would be ready in three, and I was ready in three.”

Since the injury, he has had workouts with the Houston Texas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Should Covington achieve his goal of playing in the NFL, he will have followed a similar career path as his American-born father. Grover Covington, a North Carolina native, travelled north of the border for a 10-year Hall of Fame career in Canada with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. After settling in Surrey, he and wife Natasha are watching their Canadian-born son possibly heading south to play as a pro.

“It’s kind of funny to think about that,” Christian said, adding he never thought of the coincidence.

“It’s kind of ironic.”

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