Inside the CFL: A win-win situation for Quinlan
By Ted Michaels, CFL Columnist
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - There's no way Kyle Quinlan can lose.
In a year that was filled with emotional ups and downs, the fourth-year McMaster Marauders quarterback from South Woodslee, Ontario (near Windsor) was one of four nominees announced last week for the BLG Awards.
The awards were established in 1993 to recognize the top female and male athletes from universities affiliated with CIS (Canadian University Sport.) After a three-game suspension for an off-field incident, Quinlan went on one of the greatest playoff runs ever, leading the Marauders to their first CIS football national championship.
Over four postseason contests, Quinlan averaged 335 yards passing and another 92.5 on the ground, threw for 11 touchdown passes and led the Marauders to four straight 40-plus-point performances as McMaster defeated Queen's, 40-13, in the OUA semifinals; Western, 41-19, in the Yates Cup (OUA championship); Acadia, 45-21, in the Uteck Bowl; and Laval, 41-38, in overtime in the Vanier Cup, winning what many called the greatest CIS football game ever. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior earned game MVP honors in the last three playoff games.
The national final, played on Nov. 25, saw the economics student complete 36 of 55 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 106 yards.
As dominant as Quinlan was in the playoffs, it was more of the same in the regular season. Because of the suspension, he played in only five of the eight games, yet he averaged a CIS-best 342 passing yards per game, which led to a berth on the CIS All-Canadian second team.
Quinlan still has one more year of university football eligibility remaining. But, he may not play for the Marauders because he's on the radar screen of a number of teams heading into the 2012 CFL Draft. He's participated in the last two CFL evaluation camps and was invited to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' training camp last summer.
"No athlete that I have watched over the years has developed more physically, mentally, socially and emotionally in such a short period of time than Kyle Quinlan during the 2011 football season," McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek said. "In my humble opinion, it was one of the best seasons any player has had in the history of our football program."
Quinlan admits, now that he's finished his final exams, the draft is occupying most of his time.
"It's definitely on my mind," Quinlan said on a conference call to announce the awards.
"It's an exciting time for me. It's been a long process and I've put in a lot of work to get prepared to possibly play in the CFL. I think with some Canadian quarterbacks starting to get a shot, as long as you put yourself in a position to battle on an even pace with the Americans, it should be good."
And therein lies the issue.
CFL teams can dress 42 players per game; 20 Canadians, 19 Americans and three quarterbacks (nationality having no bearing.)
For years, CFL team executives weren't comfortable having a Canadian quarterback making up one of those three spots. But, slowly, the situation has changed.
Last spring, the Calgary Stampeders drafted University of Ottawa quarterback Brad Sinopoli, who surprised many observers by not only surviving training camp, but dressing as the third-string quarterback for all 18 regular-season games.
Quinlan hopes to mirror Sinopoli's success.
"It's a positive sign for all young Canadian quarterbacks," Quinlan said. "He approached it the right way. He just tried to prove he was good on a level playing field. He sure did."
Eric Tillman, the Edmonton Eskimos' general manager, is one CFL executive who was, and remains, an advocate of giving Canadian-born quarterbacks a shot.
When he was with the BC Lions, Guilio Caravatta was on the roster for three seasons. Tillman also signed Larry Jusdanis in Toronto, as GM in Ottawa the Renegades drafted Tyler Paopao, in Saskatchewan Teale Orban was a draft pick, and last season the Eskimos signed Marc Muller, the grandson of legendary CFL player and coach Ron Lancaster.
"Currently, quarterbacks don't factor in the ratio, so, unfortunately, that lessens the odds of a Canadian quarterback being drafted," Tillman told Inside the CFL. "But, Calgary drafted Brad last year, as did Jim Barker (Toronto) when he gave Danny Brannagan a shot last year. It's obvious our league has really taken some positive steps in the right direction. But, drafted or not, I believe Kyle Quinlan will get a shot at in a CFL training camp. The young man has size, a fairly decent arm, and he's a winner who has demonstrated poise and efficiency in some big games, including the Vanier Cup. And, since football is about responding to adversity, there's a lot to be said for a young man who has overcome adversity in his own personal life. Kyle has done so and he will be a wiser better human being for it."
Tillman feels that Quinlan has all the tools to play in the pros.
"No doubt, that incredible Vanier Cup game was a real testament to two outstanding programs and two terrific head coaches. Kyle was blessed to play for an outstanding coach like Stef Ptaszek, who is held in such high regard across our league. And, when Stef speaks highly of a young man, as he does with Kyle, people listen. Many teams, if they had a fourth spot available, would consider giving this young man a chance. And, I shouldn't use the word give. In truth, via his play, Kyle has earned our respect and the right to compete in a CFL training camp. Many of us hope he'll get that chance. It's good for our league, and it's great for young Canadian kids across our country, who dream of playing quarterback in the CFL."
So for Quinlan, May 3 could be one of the biggest days in his life. That's the day of the CFL draft, when he finds out if he'll continue down the path that Sinopoli blazed last year.
"If I'm lucky enough to get that opportunity," Quinlan said, "I will have to weigh the pros and cons of a fifth year at McMaster or sticking in the CFL. It would be a good problem to have if I'm fortunate enough to have it."
Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.
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04/26 10:15:09 ET