Former Barrie resident has tryout with Celtics: father
KINGSTON - The father of former Queen's Golden Gaels star offensive lineman Matt O'Donnell says his son has a tryout with the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Jim O'Donnell said the six-foot-10, 329-pound Matt O'Donnell will not report to the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Canadian Football League rookie camp on Wednesday after the Celtics asked to take a look at the Holy Cross graduate recently.
Matt played intramural basketball at Queen's, but the native of Nanaimo, B.C. - who is also a former Barrie resident - has not played organized hoops since his days at Holy Cross.
A two-time all-Canadian football player at Queen's and a member of the Golden Gaels' 2009 Vanier Cup team, O'Donnell was selected 15th overall by the Roughriders in the CFL Canadian draft last month.
"(The Celtics tryout) came about because of testing (numbers) at the CFL evaluation camp," Jim O'Donnell said. "They looked at his numbers and his athletic ability and (decided) it was worthwhile giving the kid a chance."
Jim said O'Donnell flew down to Boston on Tuesday.
Jim said Matt also is receiving "serious consideration" from a National Football League team. However, with the NFL in a lockout, teams can't sign any undrafted free agents.
Friday is a key date for the NFL lockout as arguments will be made in St. Louis for the league's appeal of a court's injunction to lift the lockout.
"Unfortunately, with the NFL being in a position where they can't sign him right now, we just have to be patient," Jim O'Donnell said.
"The kid's got a lot of options."
Asked where his son would most like to be, Jim O'Donnell said, "I think probably the NFL right now, but that's just me. He'd really love to have an opportunity to showcase himself down there. But he'd be very pleased and honoured to play for the Roughriders."
O'Donnell spent much of his off-season training in the United States and also was one of two Canadians selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, a showcase for college seniors.
After being selected by the Roughriders, O'Donnell told QMI Agency he was "absolutely thrilled.
"It's been a dream of mine to play pro football for as long as I've been playing, right back to when I was 11 years old in junior bantam. I followed my older brothers, Jim and Sean, made the transition from hockey and now I eat sleep and breathe the game."
O'Donnell is represented by Washington-based agent Johnathon Hardaway, who has drawn some criticism in CFL circles.
O'Donnell represents Kingston-born linebacker Cory Greenwood, who signed with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs about a month after he was taken third overall by the Toronto Argonauts last year. Greenwood went on to make the Chiefs roster and played every game with the NFL team last year.
Hardaway also represents this year's CFL first overall pick Henoc Muamba, who signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this week after some miscommunication in negotiations.
Jim O'Donnell, meanwhile, says he fully supports the actions of his son and the agent.
"He's got to explore all his options," Jim O'Donnell said. "It's a tough spot for him. Growing up, he dreamed of playing in the CFL. But when you're getting some pro interest down there, you've got to have a look at it. The agent feels it's valid.
"I think he's been pretty good with Matthew so far. Ultimately, the decisions are Matt's to make."
Jim said Matt has been "open and honest with Saskatchewan. It's big business for Saskatchewan, but it's also business for (Matt)."
Matt, Jim said, remains very interested in playing for the Roughriders.
"He'd still love to play CFL ball, but he's still getting interest in the NFL ... That's why he's delaying with the Roughriders," Jim said.
The Roughriders feature two Kingston-born players in receiver Rob Bagg and linebacker Mike McCullough, as well as O'Donnell's former Queen's teammate, rush end Shomari Williams.
Attempts to reach Matt O'Donnell and Hardaway on Tuesday were unsuccessful.