04/30/2015 05:46 EDT | Updated 08/15/2015 11:59 EDT

Son of former CFL star Grover Covington poised to be taken in NFL draft

More than 30 years after retiring, Grover Covington has a new appreciation for defensive tackles.

Covington terrorized CFL quarterbacks over his 11-year career, registering a league-record 157 sacks as a defensive end with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But the emergence of his son, Christian, a six-foot-three, 290-pound defensive tackle at Rice, has made Covington understand the challenges that exist playing inside.

Pro scouts have also taken notice. Christian Covington is listed as the 12th-ranked defensive tackle for this year's NFL draft, which begins Thursday in Chicago, and projected as a potential third-round pick.

"I always thought it was about the ends when I played," Grover Covington said via telephone from his Surrey, B.C., residence Thursday. "But being around him and watching him play inside, I just have so much more respect for defensive tackles.

"It's such a tight space and it's tough in there."

Covington, 59, was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2000. At six foot three and 255 pounds, speed and tenacity were his forte coming off the edge.

Covington said while his son plays a physical game he still possesses quickness, running a 4.89-second 40-yard dash time on his pro day in March.

"He's a defensive tackle but he's like a defensive end," Covington said. "I was never as strong as him at his age . . . but for guys who are 300 pounds to run under five seconds is just amazing.

"But he's very fluid, has great hands and feet and is very powerful. I think whoever drafts him is going to be very excited because he's definitely a leader and isn't shy. Off the field he's a perfect gentleman, kind and loves his family and people. On the field, he knows he can play as hard as he can and have fun because everyone has equipment on."

Christian Covington, a 21-year-old Vancouver native, declared for the draft in January despite still having a year of college eligibility remaining. He missed Rice's final three games with a dislocated left knee cap.

The injury prevented Covington from participating in February's NFL combine but he impressed at his pro day, also registering 24 reps in the 225-pound bench press and a 30.5-inch vertical jump, all of which amazed his father.

"He had his operation Nov. 11," Covington said. "He probably could've competed when they invited him to the combine but was told to wait until his pro day.

"He had no brace on but could cut and change direction. To me, it was a miracle the way he was able to recover and run at full speed and not have an issue."

Grover Covington began playing football as a junior in high school before attending Johnson C. Smith University, a Division II school in Charlotte, North Carolina. After being bypassed in the NFL draft, Covington signed with Green Bay before joining the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in 1981.

He was traded to Hamilton during the pre-season, spending the remainder of his pro career there. A four-time league all-star, Covington helped the Ticats win the '86 Grey Cup and was named the CFL's top defensive player two years later.

Covington not only helped tutor his son in the finer points of defensive line play but also mentally preparing for the results-oriented life that is pro football.

"I didn't get to enjoy football until after I finished playing," he said. "I loved the game but they let you know where you stand.

"I remember them (Ticats) bringing in defensive linemen behind me so you can't get comfortable in this job. But you don't want to, you want to compete and you want them to push you and you want to push yourself."

Christian Covington will watch the draft on television in Surrey, surrounded by 45 friends and family.

"My wife went shopping and got plenty of food and drinks because we don't know what day it will happen," Grover Covington said. "But I've told him just to be mentioned in the draft is huge because there's just over 200 players called from the thousands who play college football."