Hard work has paid off for Marquay McDaniel.
This time last season, McDaniel was on the Calgary Stampeders practice roster after being released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
This year, he cracked the starting lineup and has been a consistent offensive contributor for Calgary (7-4), which is riding a four-game win streak heading into Sunday’s game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-6) at Mosaic Stadium.
“I knew if I put in the work off the field in the off-season that come training camp I’d be ready,” he said. “So it was just getting the playbook down and being comfortable in the offence and everything pretty much came together.”
Through 11 games, McDaniel has 37 catches for 539 yards.
He broke into the CFL in 2009 with Hamilton, registering 57 catches for 688 yards and three touchdowns. McDaniel had 76 receptions for 994 yards and seven scores the following season.
But the six-foot, 200-pound receiver only played one game for Hamilton in 2011, recording four catches for 60 yards. Shortly after being released Aug. 31, the native of Virginia Beach, Va., signed with Calgary and spent the remainder of the season on the practice roster.
McDaniel credited Calgary’s offensive line coach Mike Gibson, a former Ticats offensive co-ordinator, with putting in a good word for him with the Stamps after McDaniel was released.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” McDaniel said. “I said before, that could have been it for me but I guess coach Gibson and people over here wanted to bring me in and see me.”
“I guess I did a good job on the practice squad and they told me just come in ready for camp and they’ll give me a fair shot and that’s what they did.”
Receivers coach Pete Costanza said McDaniel followed up a solid training camp with consistent play early in the regular season.
“He’s a smart guy, understands our system and he’s just been making plays,” Costanza said. “You watch the way he’s playing out there and he’s blocking, running good routes and making timely plays.”
“He’s just having a solid season, but it’s really his preparation and his understanding of the offence now that’s helped him get there.”
Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn, who had success throwing passes to McDaniel in Hamilton in 2009 and 2010, isn’t surprised that McDaniel has bounced back.
“I played with him, so I know what kind of guy he is, what kind of athlete he is,” Glenn said. “He’s smart, he understands football. He takes coaching. He’s doing a good job for us.
“It’s just one of those things. Sometimes, it doesn’t work in one situation and you have to move on to the next.”
And McDaniel has certainly taken advantage of his latest opportunity.
“It’s great,” he said. “Everything about playing in real games and going on the road, I missed it.”
“It’s a good group of guys here. I love going out and practising, I love going to battle with these guys every week. There’s no feeling like actually being out there on that field.”
McDaniel has yet to register a receiving TD this season, but remains undeterred.
“As long as we’re winning and we’re going in the right direction, everything else will come,” McDaniel said. “My thing is to try to make plays when the ball comes to me so the coaches will be more comfortable giving me more touches.”
Costanza, for one, isn’t concerned about McDaniel’s touchdown drought.
“He will when he gets a chance,” Costanza said. “They all know that when you’ve got a chance to make a play you’ve got to make it but there’s only football and five guys catching it. Whoever scores a touchdown in our group we’re happy. Eventually he’ll get in and he’ll be happy.
“He just knows that at the end of the day the main goal is trying to win. Whatever he can do to help us win, he does, and that’s why it’s a joy to coach him.”
After appearing in just one game with Hamilton last year, McDaniel is thankful to just be playing football again.
“I’m just grateful,” he said. “It’s been a long journey. Coming back you still didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.
“Going from last year around this time to actually being out there and having a lot of games under my belt, I’m happy. I’m having a ball out there.”