Travis Lulay needed some time.
After five years as the B.C. Lions’ undisputed No. 1 quarterback, there was no doubt the torch had been passed to Jonathon Jennings.
The rookie took the reins in the second half of the 2015 season when Lulay and backup John Beck both went down with injuries, guiding the team to the playoffs where it would eventually lose out in the West Division semifinal.
Lulay could have tested free agency for the first time in his career, but the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2011 instead decided to ink a new two-year deal this week that will keep him with the Lions as both a mentor and an insurance policy.
“The grass isn’t always greener,” Lulay said Tuesday. “In my case, because I’ve been here long enough, I’ve been emotionally invested in this club. I want to be part of the process of getting us back to where we want to be, and that’s playing for a Grey Cup.”
With the Lions since 2009, the 32-year-old led the franchise to a championship in 2011, earning game MVP honours. He’s 39-26 in 65 career starts, but has been cut down by injuries the last three seasons — first to his throwing shoulder before a knee problem helped open the door for Jennings.
Lulay will be the backup heading into training camp, and that’s OK.
“If that’s my role, then so be it,” said Lulay. “I’m up to that point in my career where I’m fortunate that I can really put the team in front of myself. Sometimes early in your career it’s just survival of the fittest and you’re worried about you.
“I really want what’s best for this club. That’s part of the pull of me coming back.”
Lulay appeared in 10 games last season, completing 167-of-266 passes (62.6 per cent) for 1,953 yards with 12 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He didn’t have the same zip on the ball he did before his shoulder issues, but the Montana State product showed he could still play.
“I think we came to a consensus where we’re both happy,” said Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono. “There’s always a little bit of pain in negotiations.”
Lulay’s contract has performance incentives for game action, and part of his job will be to help develop Jennings — who threw for 2,004 yards with 15 TDs and 10 interceptions last season — as well as No. 3 quarterback Greg McGhee.
But that doesn’t mean he’s happy holding a clipboard.
“I’m going to come in and compete like crazy to make our position the best it can be, however that plays out,” said Lulay.
The need for at least two solid quarterbacks was apparent across the CFL last season when a number of starters went down. The Lions experienced that a couple of times, including in their playoff loss when Lulay replaced an injured Jennings.
“(Lulay’s) experience, his success, his competitive nature, his ability to mentor and nurture the young quarterbacks was all very critical to us,” said Buono. “He’s going to be a quarterback who, when he’s counted on, is going to be ready.”
Jennings and Lulay were roommates in camp last season by chance when Beck got sick. That time together helped create a bond both on and off the field that played a role in the veteran’s return.
“We developed that personal relationship and that laid a foundation for us to be able to work together and trust each other,” said Lulay. “That’s part of why this feels good being back here.”
Lulay pointed to Jarious Jackson, in his early years with the Lions, and Matt Hasselbeck, who he got to know when both were with the Seattle Seahawks, as veteran quarterbacks he watched as a younger player put team goals above personal success.
It’s a level of professionalism Lulay hopes to emulate.
“You learn that from guys in front of you,” he said. “You want to pay that forward so the next generation does the same thing.”Report Typo/Error