Brandon Bridge has realized a childhood dream.
The strong-armed quarterback attended Toronto Argonauts games during his youth in Mississauga, Ont., dreaming one day he’d play for the club. That became a reality Sunday when the six-foot-five, 230-pound Bridge signed a one-year deal with the franchise.
“I actually told myself if I ever played in the CFL I wanted to play for the city one day,” Bridge said. “It’s a great thing, I have a lot family and friends who can come to the games and I can see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd.
“I definitely enjoyed my time in Saskatchewan. I loved the fans, I loved being out there but one day I always told myself I wanted to play for Toronto.”
Bridge, 26, became a CFL free agent Feb. 12 and is relieved to finally know where he’ll be in 2019. Bridge said he spoke with B.C., Edmonton and Ottawa before deciding to join the Argos.
Two factors in that decision were the proximity to home and feeling Toronto presented him with a better football fit.
“It’s a relief knowing where I’m going to be,” Bridge said. “Now I can start studying the playbook.
“I don’t mind homework, I always did my homework in school.”
Bridge spent parts of three seasons with the Riders, completing 188-of-282 passes (66.7 per cent) for 2,203 yards with 11 TDs and seven interceptions. He also ran for 260 yards on 49 carries (5.31-yard average) with two touchdowns.
Bridge’s best season was 2017 when he completed 92-of-138 passes (66.7 per cent) for 1,236 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Last year, he finished 82-of-131 passing (62.6 per cent) for 804 yards with a TD and three interceptions, making four regular-season starts as well as Saskatchewan’s 23-18 West Division semifinal loss to Winnipeg.
With that, Bridge became the first Canadian quarterback to start a playoff game since Gerry Dattilio with Montreal in 1984.
Bridge becomes the fifth quarterback on Toronto’s roster, joining veterans James Franklin, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Dakota Prokup and rookie Noah Picton. Franklin will enter training camp as the Argos’ starter.
Bridge began his pro career with Montreal, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 CFL draft before releasing him six games into the ‘16 season. In 25 career regular-season games, Bridge has completed 211-of-322 passes (65.5 per cent) for 2,485 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions while running for 321 yards (4.6-yard average) and four TDs.
Bridge joins an Argos team looking to rebound from a dismal 2018 season. After winning the ‘17 Grey Cup, Toronto finished last in the East Division with a 4-14 record, resulting in head coach Marc Trestman being fired at season’s end.
Corey Chamblin, who was Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator in 2017, returns as its new head coach. And veteran CFL coach Jacques Chapdelaine will serve as the Argos’ offensive co-ordinator.
Bridge has some familiarity with Chapdelaine, who was Montreal’s receivers coach in 2016.
“I’m familiar with some of the lingo he has . . . I think hearing that and the concepts he has will start to come back to me,” Bridge said. “But it’s still going to be a brand new offence for me so I’ll have to put my head down and study it.
“As a quarterback you want to gain the respect and trust of the people around you and show them you can get it done. I’m just going to try to get the respect of my teammates, be the best teammate I can be, the best supporter of whoever is in there and the best football player I can.”
Toronto GM Jim Popp has added weapons to his offence this off-season, most notably big-play receiver Derel Walker (287 catches, 4,208 yards and 26 TDs in 49 career games with Edmonton). His presence should give veterans S.J. Green (83 catches, 1,095 yards, four TDs) and Armanti Edwards (73 catches, 974 yards, four TDs) more space.
Popp also solidified Toronto’s running back corps, adding free agents Chris Rainey and Tyrell Sutton to join veteran James Wilder Jr.
“I think there’s a lot of great weapons, they have a lot of great pieces,” Bridge said. “I think Jacques’ offence works, it’s just being able to comprehend and execute it.”