SPORTS

Jabar Westerman happy to be wanted by Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions

05/08/2012 06:31 EDT | Updated 07/08/2012 05:12 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - For months, Jabar Westerman's eligibility for the CFL draft remained uncertain.

With things now settled, he's looking forward to the chance to play for the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.

"It's great to be wanted by a team that's coming off a championship," the 22-year-old Westerman said at a media availability session Tuesday at the Lions' practice facility. "That means they think that I can improve their team — even though they just won a championship."

The Lions chose the six-foot-two and 285-pound defensive end with the second overall pick last week after they moved up via trade with the Edmonton Eskimos. He spent the past two seasons at Eastern Michigan after two campaigns at Dodge City Community College in Kansas.

Until early March, Westerman's status for the draft was in question because he was born in the U.S. but grew up mainly in Canada.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native moved to Brampton, Ont., with his mother in 1999 after his parents separated. Westerman had to obtain documentation from school principals that he had spent sufficient time north of the border to merit Canadian status in the CFL. The league only drafts Canadian players.

"It was kind of frustrating," said Westerman. "To me, it was kind of obvious that I lived here. It was frustrating to actually prove the situation: I was born in Florida; I moved here in '99. So when I got through, I felt relieved."

His homegrown status will come in handy for the Lions as they try to balance their import-and-non-import ratio and replace Canadian defensive end Brent Johnson, who retired earlier this spring after a standout 11-year career with B.C.

"Obviously, losing Brent Johnson is going to be a big loss," said general manager Wally Buono. "But this is where (Westerman) comes in. He's going to be able to give us the reps that (Johnson) has given us as far as a role position."

Westerman recorded five sacks and 48 defensive tackles over his two seasons at Eastern Michigan. He has also served as a long snapper on punts and field goals at Dodge City and played on the kick-off unit.

"He's a big, physical guy and, I believe, can get after the quarterback, and these are the things that you definitely want," said Buono.

In addition to following in Johnson's footsteps, Westerman hopes to emulate his older brothers Jamaal, 27, who is a linebacker with the NFL's Miami Dolphins and Jawann, 25, a receiver who played at Rutgers and took part in the CFL combine in March with him.

"I was the only one to get drafted in my family, so it looks like I'm doing the best," said Westerman.

The youngest brother usually have the better shot, because they can learn from their older siblings' mistakes, he added. And, Buono made it clear that Westerman has a good chance of sticking with the Lions.

The same goes for Kirby Fabien, the University of Calgary offensive lineman who was also chosen in the first round (seventh overall) and appeared with Westerman on Tuesday.

"The whole idea of the draft was to make sure that the guys that we picked, especially in the first round, are going to be part of our (42-man roster)," said Buono. "The opportunity is going to be there for them. They have to take advantage of it."

Fabien's opportunity may come at a different position. The Lions are looking at moving the six-foot-six, 295-pound Calgary native to guard from tackle. They will test him out at the new position during training camp.

"I played guard once in my whole life, at practice," said Fabien. "I'll figure it out though."

He earned selection by the Lions after he took exception to Buono calling him "soft" and "came back at him" during an interview at the combine camp. Buono subsequently went back and talked to Dinos coach Blake Nill and watched more video of the lineman.

Fabien helped the Dinos reach the Vanier Cup in 2010, where they lost to Laval, and the 2011 Mitchell Bowl, a Canadian university semifinal game, which they also dropped to the Rouge et Or. He still has two years of university eligibility remaining after red-shirting in his freshman year, but has no intention of putting a Dino uniform on again.

"If I'm at camp, I'm at camp to make the team," said Fabien. "I'm thinking I'm here for a reason."

The Lions' rookie camp begins later this month. The main training camp goes in early June.

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