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Gaydosh warms to American football


CHARLOTTE – Things really heat up, relatively speaking, when the calendar turns to July in Linden Gaydosh's hometown of Peace River, Alberta, Canada.

The average high temperature is 72 degrees, with more than 17 hours of daylight. It's a far cry from the 17 hours of darkness and average temperature of 11.5 degrees in January.

"I'm not used to humidity like this. It's something else," Gaydosh said following one of the Panthers' organized team activities. "I've talked to a couple of guys about how they handle the heat, and they told me, 'This is just a nice day.'

"I guess I'm in for a rude awakening come training camp."

The sizzling Spartanburg summer isn't the only adjustment Gaydosh must make if his time with the Panthers is to extend beyond training camp. They play a different brand of football north of the border, especially along the line of scrimmage, where Gaydosh plies his trade as a defensive tackle.

But Gaydosh showed during the Panthers' offseason training program that he's more than willing to put in the work to turn his dream into a reality.

"I'm very excited," Gaydosh said. "This is what I've been striving to try to accomplish."

Gaydosh excelled on the football field from an early age in Peace River, a town with less than 7,000 residents that sits 500 miles north of Canada's border with Idaho and Washington as the crow flies. That route, however, is only fit for fowl: Thanks to the expansive Canadian Rockies, it's more than an 800-mile drive.

The University of Calgary, a traditional football power about a 500-mile drive southeast of Peace River, offered Gaydosh a scholarship, and he picked up where he left off. Gaydosh was consensus rookie of the year, then MVP of the conference championship game as a sophomore before earning conference all-star honors each of his last two seasons.

As the 2013 Canadian Football League Draft neared, momentum built toward the Hamilton Tiger-Cats taking Gaydosh with the No. 1 overall pick. He was a top talent to be sure but garnered additional attention when no team signed him in the days that followed the NFL Draft.

"I was really disappointed because I put a lot of work into things, especially my combine prep. When nothing came of that, it was kind of deflating," Gaydosh said. "It brought me down, but going No. 1 in the CFL draft brought me back up.

"I didn't really have any words for that. It was a great honor and something that will always be dear to me, but I'd like to move on from that and move up and play the highest level of football that I can."

Four days after the CFL draft, Gaydosh got his chance as one of 36 invited tryout players at the Panthers' rookie minicamp. The day after the three-day camp concluded, Carolina signed him.

"I had nothing, nothing up until the Panthers contacted me. I was stunned, realizing that it was a reality. Then I realized quickly that I had to show them what I could do," Gaydosh said. "If this doesn't work out, I have a job playing professional football in Canada. Not many people get that opportunity to begin with, so I'm blessed in both worlds."

Looking at his measurables, it's surprising that the 6-3, 315-pounder didn't garner more attention sooner. His 33.5-inch vertical jump at the CFL combine was better than any verticals by defensive tackles at the NFL combine, and his 36 bench-press reps would have been third most among defensive tackles.

The defensive tackles that were drafted, however, have a major advantage over Gaydosh.

"I'm still getting used to the 'no-yard' coming from Canadian rules," Gaydosh said. "We've got a one-yard neutral zone area in Canada, so you have a little more time to read and react. Here, it's just bang, right in your face as soon as the ball is snapped.

"It's a big adjustment, but as time goes on I'll get better at it and will be able to incorporate it more easily into my game."

Between the figurative heat that opposing offensive linemen will bring and the literal heat that awaits at training camp, Gaydosh knows he has his work cut out for him. And that's without even mentioning that the Panthers invested their top two draft choices in defensive tackles, selecting Star Lotulelei in the first round and Kawann Short in the second.

But it will be a cold day in Spartanburg before Gaydosh gives up.

"I'm very excited. This is my dream. I couldn't ask for anything better," he said. "My strength and my lateral speed for my size, I've got both of those things going for me, and that's a little bit of a rare combination. It's really about catching up on the mental aspects of the game.

"I've got a lot of work ahead of me, a lot of things I've got to brush up on to get me to where I want to be. I just hope it works out."

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