There is still time, he tells you, time enough to make the best of it. Four wins, no less than three, and they might reach the playoffs.
That would be good for the University of Regina Rams as they flirt with success this autumn, sometimes grabbing it, sometimes watching it fly just past the tips of their fingers.
It would be good, too, for their quarterback, the guy with the cool name and the unlikely story. That Cayman Shutter is shredding defences with his slick passing is not the whole of it. That he’s on pace to eclipse a 30-year-old record for most passing yards in a Canada West football year is merely a footnote in what will be his one and only season as a Rams player.
The gist of this tale has to do with how a 23-year-old former NCAA Division 1 quarterback at the University of Hawaii, a high-school state champion, no less, ended up on the flat lands of Saskatchewan, bracing for the coming cold and a furious playoff push. The answer is simple: he’s trying to make the best of it.
“I haven’t had a conventional journey,” he said as the Rams readied for Saturday’s crucial showdown against the Manitoba Bisons. “It’s definitely been one that was unique.”
Shutter, or Grand Cayman, as he’s been dubbed, has been everything the Rams had hoped for: a proficient, pro-style passer who has quickly adjusted to the Canadian game after spending his formative years playing 11-man, four-down football. For throwing four touchdown passes in a romp over Alberta, he was named a CIS player of the week. His position coach, former Rams quarterback Marc Mueller, is not the least bit surprised Shutter has clicked with the team’s offence almost from the first day of training camp.
“For quarterbacks, you wonder if a guy can make all the passes. Cayman can make all the passes,” Mueller assessed. “I watched him throw and said, ‘This guy’s the real deal.’”
On top of that, Shutter was born in Regina, where he watched the Saskatchewan Roughriders play until his 10th birthday when his parents informed him: “Aloha. We’re moving to Hawaii.” Maureen MacLeod and Darryl Shutter craved a warmer climate and new careers; Cayman loved playing baseball and football year-round.
From winning a state football title with Punahou School, to enrolling at Hawaii, where he was poised to battle for the starting quarterback job, everything was going to plan. Until Cayman Shutter saw a police car’s flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and knew things were about to change.
He’d been out with several of his teammates during the 2012 March spring break, had some drinks and figured he could drive everyone home. He was pulled over by the police at 3 a.m. and arrested for DUI. He pleaded no contest, was suspended by first-year head coach Norm Chow and left in limbo. He was told he could return to the team after sitting out three games, but his chances of being the No. 1 quarterback had been crippled. He figured it was best to move on.
“I thought I had waited my time and learned the offence to the point where I could be a starter,” Shutter said. “It was the worst possible time to [be charged and suspended]. I let down myself, my team and my family. I knew I’d made a mistake. The only thing I could do was take responsibility for it. I play quarterback. You don’t make a bad situation worse.”
Shutter knew his CFL draft year was 2013 (having spent his first 10 years in Canada, he is classified a non-import) so he worked out in preparation for the league’s combine, where scouts and personnel people from every team watch prospects in physical testing and on-field drills. Shutter had a pulled hamstring and was limited in what he could do. He threw the ball well and answered every question about why he had left Hawaii.
Although undrafted, he was contacted by several CIS schools offering him a place to use his final year of eligibility. When the Rams called, it was an easy decision.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for everyone involved,” Mueller said. “He wanted to play in Canada, and what better place than where he was born with his family being there. And for us, to get a legitimate Division 1 player is huge … I think the biggest thing is the players and coaches believe in Cayman. He stands in [the pocket] and we throw 50 times a game. He stands in and never complains.”
That’s because he’s thankful for all he’s been given, a second chance, an opportunity he never envisioned in the city of his birth.
Four games to go and a shot at the playoffs, the Rams are like their quarterback – it’s all there if they keep making the best of it.