MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Akeel Lendor is gigantic. Stand in front of the 28-year-old, who is 6-foot-8 and 335 pounds, and the sunlight disappears, and the width of his shoulders cuts through the wind.
“He is a big boy,” Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich said with a chuckle on Tuesday.
The Argonauts signed Lendor to the practice squad Monday, and though his physical gifts make his upside obvious, the native of Diego Martin, Trinidad has never played organized contact football in pads before this week.
“I want to learn as much as I can, and to become a starter,” Lendor said with a friendly smile. He has also never been to Canada before, and said he is still adjusting to the humidity. “Not many people in my country have gotten the opportunity to do this. I really appreciate this. I’m here to win.”
Lendor participated in mixed martial arts, played rugby, basketball and organized flag football in Trindad. Former NFL defensive end Keith Washington spotted Lendor, and then contacted Toronto and defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
Toronto has listed Lendor as a defensive lineman and he also qualifies as a non-import because he has received no football training outside of Canada before the age of 17. Lendor practised basic hand and footwork drills very slowly on Tuesday, although he did easily fell 6-foot-8 offensive guard Joe Eppele in a light scrimmage, with the slightest turn of his huge shoulders.
“[Football] makes you use everything you’ve learned from your past, as well as some ingenuity,” Lendor said. “It is very challenging, mentally.”
Milanovich is putting no deadline on Lendor’s education, and might even experiment by placing the behemoth on the offensive line.
“He is a big project,” the coach said, “and we want to spend time with him.”