The three Canadian university quarterbacks who auditioned at the CFL evaluation camp on the weekend know they didn’t dazzle with their physical test scores. And you don’t need to remind them that it’s been nearly 16 years since a homegrown quarterback has started a game in the league.
A limited number of Canadian Interuniversity Sport quarterbacks garner real CFL consideration, and those guys are then stacked up against pivots from U.S. colleges. So Kyle Quinlan of McMaster, Kyle Graves of Acadia and Billy Greene of the University of British Columbia tried to win over pro teams by putting the spotlight on their unique individual strengths.
Quinlan had one of the most memorable performances for a CIS quarterback in recent history as he led McMaster to its first Vanier Cup victory. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Woodslee, Ont., threw for 482 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 106 yards. In evaluation camp tests, he managed just three bench presses and ran the 40-yard-dash test in 4.89 seconds, but he focused on showing off his arm and football smarts.
“I was really excited for the interview process so I could just talk football and display my football IQ up close with these guys,” said Quinlan, who said he had interviews with a few teams but declined to say which ones. “They had me draw up a play for them. I think one of my strengths is field vision and awareness of the Canadian game, so I definitely tried to project that to the scouts.”
Greene passed for a CIS-high 2,558 yards and a single-season school record 20 touchdowns in 2011. He won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding CIS football player, and his 482 rushing yards were the country’s best for a quarterback.
“I tell them my goal is to play quarterback but if that doesn’t work out, I’m more than happy to switch positions,” said 6-foot-1, 220-pound Greene, who said there had been discussion about him auditioning as a receiver at the camp also.
The Surrey, B.C., native ran the 40 in 4.85 seconds and struggled in the jumping tests, but had interviews with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calgary Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes. He plans to visit with the Lions in B.C.
Graves was the quickest of the three in the 40, running it in 4.77 seconds. He tried to display his athleticism, natural for someone who has was also a punter at Acadia, used to star in track and field and basketball, and won a pair of slam dunk competitions as a high school kid in Barrie, Ont.
“I absolutely let them know I could play other positions – I don’t mind what position I play,” said Graves, who spoke with the Alouettes. “I just want a chance to go to camp and make a team and see where it goes.”
The quarterbacks were just three of the 59 players at the evaluation camp, so they weren’t the most heavily-watched group, but teams noted their skills.
“They are all fairly athletic, but they have decent arms, not overpowering arms. There are plenty of quarterbacks in the league who don’t have arms any stronger than theirs,” said Bob O’Billovich, Ticats vice-president of football operations. “As a third quarterback, they could be as promising as any young guy.”
Such has been the case for other Canadian pivots in the CFL. In 2011, Brad Sinopoli of Ottawa made the Stampeders’ roster as a third stringer, while Marc Mueller of Regina signed with the Edmonton Eskimos. In 2010, Danny Brannagan of Queen’s made the Toronto Argonauts but was cut a year later. Now three others take a shot.
“I didn’t think any of them were horrible athletes but I didn’t think they were like the guys who ran 4.4 either,” Argonauts general manager Jim Barker said. “But I thought they were good enough athletes to play in our league, and that’s what’s important.”
In other news our of the camp, Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan, ranked No. 1 by the CFL Scouting Bureau, did testing but no individual drills after experiencing pain in his hip and groin. Wilfrid Laurier wide receiver Shamawd Chambers, who is ranked fourth, had the fastest 40-yard-dash time, clocking in at 4.42 seconds, fourth best in camp history.