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Sept. 24, 2013

By Melissa Dudek

Draft day is a special day in the life of a college athlete. Senior defensive tackle Brent Urban fondly recalls his first draft day experience.

“I was actually finishing my final thesis for my history major and while I was preparing to print it out, I was clicking back and forth through the draft results,” Urban said. “All of the sudden, I got a call. It was the coach telling me that they were all really excited because they didn’t think they would be able to draft me when they did.”

That day was May 6, 2013. The draft was the Canadian Football League (CFL) Draft with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats selecting Urban in the second round as the 15th-overall pick.

“For me it was an honor, I was really excited to be taken in the draft,” Urban said. “Hamilton’s stadium is probably a 40-minute ride from my house back home.”

Urban grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada’s sixth largest city, located just outside Toronto, which made him CFL draft-eligible at the end of his redshirt-junior year, setting what Urban hopes is the first of a pair of draft-day celebrations.

“My goal is to play in the NFL,” Urban stated in a confident tone. “It was nice to get that gratification of being drafted in the CFL, but at the same time, I want to keep pushing on and look forward to the NFL. The Tiger-Cats understand that, too. The coach told me `best of luck this season. If the NFL works out, that’s great, but you know we’ll always be here for you as a second opportunity,’ if need be.”

When looking at the 6-7, 295-pound tackle, it is easy to believe that he is on the path to being able to achieve those NFL dreams. When speaking with Urban, he recalls that the path was in no way a straight-shot. His athletic career began early as a two-sport athlete, playing basketball as well as playing left wing for a very successful junior hockey team. In high school, Urban added football to the mix.

“Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I was going to football practice right after school and my dad would have to come pick me up with a sandwich in the car and we’d go on our way to hockey practice,” Urban recalled. “Hockey was six times a week with two games and four practices. Sometimes I’d have to go right to a game after football practice. There was a certain point where that was starting to get to be too much.”

Urban had to choose which sport he wanted to focus on. With his size, his coaches and his family were encouraging him to focus on football. After attending several football camps in the United States, interest letters from football teams also began to arrive in the mail, cementing the decision for him to hang up his skates.

Since Canadian colleges don’t offer full athletic scholarships, Urban decided attending a U.S. college was his best option. Urban, along with his father, Vic, and his mother, Ann, headed across the border to visit schools.

“My dad would drive me everywhere I needed to go,” Urban said. “We drove the 10 hours to go down to Virginia to visit. The thing is, my dad is really intense about leaving early. That’s his big thing – we have to leave early. He would wake me up at the most unnecessary time, like 6 a.m., and have eggs ready and just whisk me away in the car. We’d always get to places way before we needed to, but at least he was prepared. Honestly, though, I really want to thank my dad and my mom for driving me all over the place. I wouldn’t be here now without them and their help.”

Even after committing to UVa and arriving in Charlottesville, Urban’s path still continued to twist and turn.

“When I first came here I was supposed to be a 3-4 defensive end,” Urban recalled. “That was the defense we were playing. That was the defense I wanted to play and I was only looking at schools that were playing a 3-4 because I was told I was a prototypical 3-4 defensive end. Then we got a coaching change and Coach London was going with a 4-3. I was a little apprehensive about that.”

With the change in defensive scheme came a change in defensive position for Urban. He moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, a position that needed more depth on the team. He turned to former Cavalier standout Matt Conrath, now a member of the St. Louis Rams, for guidance on making the position change.

Urban also had to adjust to playing in front of large crowds. At Lorne Park Secondary, his football team often played during the middle of the day, sometimes in front of crowds of as few as 50 people. Sitting out his first year at Virginia helped him acclimate to the “exhilarating” feeling of being surrounded by tens of thousands of fans. By the time he suited up as a redshirt freshman in 2010, he was ready to play.

“My first time going into a game was against North Carolina,” Urban remembered. “I was coming back from a knee injury and was really chomping at the bit to play. I remember being pretty nervous and as soon as I went out there, on my very first play, I jumped off sides. I was so ready to go, I jumped off sides. After that, I kind of calmed down and was able to play all right.”

Urban’s knee injury was just one of several physical setbacks he has experienced at UVa.

“This is my first year in probably two or three years where I have been fully healthy the whole offseason and I was really excited to get into the spring and be able to lift and not have to make any short cuts because of an injury,” Urban said. “Last season, I came in and I was unable to do much upper body stuff with my right arm because of a wrist injury and I didn’t really feel I was at full strength until later in the year.”

Urban got off to a strong start with a buzz-worthy performance in the UVa spring game, logging 3.5 sacks. In the first two games of the 2013 season, he has recorded four pass breakups, three of which came against BYU in the season opener. In addition to his health, the hiring of Jon Tenuta as the associate head coach for defense and defensive coordinator has set up Urban for a strong season.

“I have added comfort in this new defense where I feel like I can really shine,” Urban said. “It’s less of me just tying up blockers and more of me getting up field and making plays on my own. I like that it’s not really a nuanced position. If I’m nervous, I basically just get in my stance and shoot up field. It is a fairly simple position that’s fun. It also helps that it is about being aggressive inside, which is the kind of style of playing I like.”

Someday soon he will hopefully be playing yet another style of football, professionally, after his second draft day.

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