Cody Fajardo has been smiling all week. And why not?
The 31-year-old Montreal Alouettes quarterback is in the Grey Cup, enjoying a comeback season one year after being benched and then allowed to leave as an unwanted free agent by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“The winding road I’ve taken to be in this Grey Cup game, it kind of makes all that patience, all that hard work, all the negative [comments] and all the criticism you receive, it kind of makes it worth it,” Fajardo said.
Saskatchewan missed the playoffs this season at 6-12 after losing its last seven outings. In contrast, Montreal (11-7) won its last five regular-season games before dispatching Hamilton and league-leading Toronto to make it to Sunday’s Grey Cup against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“It’s God’s plan,” Fajardo said of making the CFL championship game after being deemed surplus to requirements by Saskatchewan.
A year ago the future looked murky, however.
“I hope there’s somebody out there that might still want me,” Fajardo said in October, 2022 when news of his benching broke. “I don’t think it’s the end of the Cody Fajardo football book, I think it might just be the end of a chapter.
“It’s tough to say, you never know. But it’s difficult to go out like this.”
Fajardo was reunited with former Saskatchewan offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas, now Montreal’s head coach, in February on the opening day of free agency. It was an eventful day with quarterback Trevor Harris leaving Montreal for Saskatchewan and the league taking over the Alouettes.
The franchise was subsequently bought by Quebec businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau. And Fajardo, who signed a two-year deal, has flourished in Montreal.
The 6-foot-2, 223-pounder has made sacrifices along the way. He has seen his wife just twice this season, given she and their young son stay at the family home in Reno, Nev.
Fajardo says his faith helps him survive any trials and tribulations that come his way.
“There’s been a lot of blessing is my life. Having a healthy son and an unconditional loving wife,” said Fajardo, who runs the Alouettes Bible study group along with defensive back Wesley Sutton.
“I told them the best teams I’ve been on have had the most guys show up for Bible study. And it’s been true. This year we’ve had a ton of guys show up to Bible study and it’s been pretty amazing, just to see the guys’ faith set on fire. And you connect outside of football.”
Fajardo completed 71 per cent of his passes (317 of 444) for 3,847 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season. He was intercepted 12 times.
“He doesn’t just rely on the fact that he can talk the game or think the game, he really puts a lot of work into it,” said Maas. “And he’s a leader. He’s got a lot of attributes that make him successful and help make us successful as a team.
The Alouettes say Fajardo is tough, resourceful and a great teammate. And one of the first into the building each day.
“No. 1 he’s a great guy,” said running back William Stanback.
“He knows his playbook by heart, he knows everything that everybody’s got to do,” added offensive lineman Philippe Gagnon. “At the same time, he’s a super-chill guy As a player, he’s able to do great things with his arm, great things with his legs.”
“Cody’s very passionate,” said veteran offensive lineman Kristian Matte. “He wants to win and he wants it for everyone around him.”
“Chemistry is a big thing in football and you never know when you have a new quarterback what it’s going to be like” added Matte. “But he came in the group, fit right in. We’re really a band of brothers right now and we’re peaking at the right time.”
Stanback said while there were doubters after Fajardo’s time in Saskatchewan, he was not one of them.
“Even teammates that left us were saying, ‘Oh, he may not be that good.’ I’m like ‘Watch. I’m telling you. Watch him come over here and he’s going to do the damn thing.’ And right now, he is. And I’m behind him 100 per cent. I’m going to make sure I protect him any way that I can. That’s my boy.”
Away from football, Fajardo enjoys pickleball, slo-pitch softball, tennis and plays in a charity dodgeball tournament every off-season.