January 6, 2012

Canadian player impressed at American football combine

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SAN ANTONIO - The players were a little bigger and a little faster. And they were a little more experienced - despite being a little younger.

The U.S. Army National Combine was an eye-opening experience for Ante Milanovic-Litre, a senior at Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in Vancouver, British Columbia. But he knew that going in.

"It's different world down here," Milanovic-Litre said. "In BC we play by American rules, but football is much tougher down here.

"These guys really know how to play."

Milanovic-Litre was one of roughly a dozen international athletes at the combine, held in conjunction with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the premier high school football all-star event.

Most of the international players come from Canada, but there is one from Mexico and another from Austria. The game is going global. It's just still a step behind.

Most of the American athletes are juniors (or sophomores) just starting the recruiting process. The international athletes were mostly seniors - hoping for an opportunity to play in the United States.

College recruiters are not allowed at the event. But word of how players do - as well as video - surfaces.

More than anything, the event was just a chance for Milanovic-Litre to find out how he stands up.

"I just love to play," he said.

He has for a while.

Milanovic-Litre is the son of Croatian parents, but he was born in Canada. He started his sports career playing hockey, as every good Canadian does.

But his older brother, Josip, took to football early and passed along his love of the game. Ante his been playing since grade seven.

Milanovic-Litre has offers to play football at three Canadian schools - Simon Fraser, University of British Columbia and the University of Ottawa - but he thought he would take a chance and see if he could join the growing list of Canadians who play college ball in the States.

"Playing football in Canada would be awesome," he said. "I know I would get a great education, but you always want to get a chance to play it at the highest level."

He got it Friday.

His size, speed and strength - impressive in Canada - was just average here. It was eye-opening, but expected.

Milanovic-Litre knew he wouldn't dominate here, but that was never the goal. Getting a chance to play with the best in the States was what he wanted to do. What he hopes to do.

"I'm open to anything if anyone will give me a shot to play and a spot on a team," he said. "It doesn't matter what school or whether I could play right away or if they want me to red-shirt and learn.

"Everyone takes a different path to where they want to go."

Milanovic-Liter hopes his began in San Antonio.



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