Kyle Quinlan enters the CFL draft sporting one of the finest audition tapes in CIS football history.
The McMaster quarterback led the Marauders to a 41-38 win over the defending champion Laval Rouge et Or in a wild Vanier Cup last November, completing 36 of 55 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns. Quinlan also rushed for a team-high 106 yards.
“He's coming off perhaps one of the greatest performances by a university quarterback in the Vanier Cup,” said McMaster coach Stefan Ptaszek.
“Laval is the premiere program in our nation and their pride and joy is their defence. For Kyle Quinlan to throw for 480 yards and rush for 100 is unique beyond unique. They haven't given up 500 yards of offence and 40 points forever. I looked at their last 80 games and zero times have they given up that many points and that many yards.
“The kid is very, very, very unique and boy we'd love to have him back. The question is does the CFL agree with me how unique this kid is and are they going to take a chance?”
Quinlan is waiting for Thursday to find out.
“I have no idea what's going to happen with it,” he said. “That's kind of part of the excitement surrounding this week. I really can't predict where I'll go — or if I go at all.”
At six foot three and 215 pounds, Quinlan has size. The 23-year-old from South Woodslee, Ont., also has poise in the pocket, a good arm and the ability to run.
It's a potent combination, one that has allowed him to exploit the large Canadian football field.
During the regular season, Quinlan completed almost 65 per cent of his passes, with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. In the playoffs, he was named MVP in the Yates Cup, Uteck Bowl and Vanier Cup.
He turned heads in the CIS championship game when he hurdled over a Laval defender during a bootleg play. Quinlan is also not averse to sacrificing his body to block for his teammate.
With a year of CIS eligibility remaining, Quinlan has options. And he could end up in a CFL camp whether he gets drafted or not. Hamilton invited him to camp last season to give him a flavour of the pro game.
“If I get into the situation where I'm faced with a decision between the CFL and another year at Mac, I think that would be a great problem to have,” Quinlan said. “So that's something I hopefully look forward to.”
Quinlan isn't the only Canadian quarterback of note eligible for the draft.
Hec Crighton winner Billy Greene and Acadia's Kyle Graves, who is also a punter of note, will draw attention. All three were showcased at the recent CFL combine.
“I'm a big fan of both of those guys,” said Quinlan.
CFL rules allow teams to field a 42-man active roster, including three quarterbacks and 39 other players, no more than 19 of whom may be imports. A four-man reserve roster with no conditions is also allowed.
The quarterbacks do not fall into the import ratio.
“There is no bias against Canadian quarterbacks per se in the CFL,” said Ptaszek. “The CFL is like any business, they're motivated to try to win and make money and be successful and so they'll do that any way they can. And it's not that they don't like Canadian quarterbacks, the actual fact of the matter is there is no quota protecting the quarterback.
A receiver who played for B.C., Hamilton and Toronto, Ptaszek said the import ratio protected him and allowed him to develop and play in the CFL.
“At quarterback that doesn't exist and therefore these competitive institutions that need to think about today and not long-term, they do what they've got to do and it's at the expense of the Canadian quarterback.”
Calgary's Brad Sinopoli was the lone Canadian quarterback on the CFL books last season.
“I think Kyle and Brad are very comparable in terms of their quarterback skills and what they can get done, so I'm hopeful that there's another CFL franchise that will take a chance and it won't hurt them to have him (Quinlan) in camp. And he'll surprise a few people.”
Quinlan says talent will win out whatever your passport says.
“I think if you prepare yourself to have a good showing and to play at high level, I think regardless of whether you're Canadian or American, the GMs and scouts and coaches will give you a fair shot.”
Still, Quinlan is flexible.
“I'm a football player first and foremost. This is a game I've been playing my entire life and it's something that I absolutely love to do, so I think it I was given the opportunity to extend playing this game as long as I can, then I'd be willing to switch positions — keeping in mind that quarterback is what I've played my entire life and it would definitely be a bit of a transition to try to switch to a different position though.”
Quinlan attributes his breakthrough year in 2011 in part to the three weeks he spent at the Ticats camp. He lived in residence with the team at Mac, went to team meetings and “basically took in the entire training camp process.”
“There were some definite things that I took directly from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats coaching staff and applied it right away at McMaster,” he said.
If Quinlan sticks with a CFL team, Ptaszek will wish him well and look to backup Marshall Ferguson, who will be entering his third year.
“He has a ton of playing experience for us, threw over a hundred passes this year for us and is a great kid,” Ptaszek said. “I'm excited for him to get more experience and get closer to being a starting quarterback. And if that's this year, he will be ready.
“He will push Kyle if Kyle comes back. It's a great situation to be in.”
Ferguson got his chance last season when Quinlan sat out three games for a suspension that arose out of a campus pub incident last September following a loss to Western.
Quinlan was charged with two counts of assaulting an officer and one count of assault. He eventually pleaded guilty to causing a disturbance and was given a one-year conditional sentence.
“I think Kyle would tell you he holds himself to a higher standard and regrets the situation and circumstance,” said Ptaszek. “He's learned a ton, he's a more passionate and dedicated football player. He's walked away from the experience a better human being and we have supported him throughout.
“Do we always agree with what our young men do? No, but we always support them no matter what and he has to his credit come out of this a more complete person.”
Ptaszek recruited Quinlan but takes no credit for the find.
“He was a pretty good football player. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that he could help your football program.”