Bridge ready to prove Cana­dian play­ers can be suc­cess­ful quar­ter­backs

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK mm­c­cormick@post­media.com twit­ter.com/mur­raylp

Bran­don Bridge wants to be known as a play­maker and a trail­blazer.

The goals are con­nected be­cause Bridge is de­ter­mined to make it as a start­ing quar­ter­back in the CFL.

He has taken strides to­ward at­tain­ing that goal dur­ing stints with the Mon­treal Alou­ettes and Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers.

Bridge, a third-year pro and sec­ond-year Roughrider, re­calls talk­ing to CFL vet­er­ans Da­mon Allen, Henry Bur­ris, S.J. Green, Kevin Glenn and Nik Lewis and be­ing told they had never seen a Cana­dian quar­ter­back with his skill set. Bridge, 25, has shown a strong, ac­cu­rate arm along with mo­bil­ity.

“They said if I don’t do it, then it won’t be hap­pen­ing for a very long time,” Bridge said. “I will put it all on my shoul­ders to open that door. If I can help one kid or two or three, then my job is done.”

Bridge is in a po­si­tion to raise aware­ness of the dearth of Cana­dian quar­ter­backs in the CFL. He’s a backup to Glenn, but is first off the bench if the vet­eran strug­gles in Fri­day’s game against the vis­it­ing Ottawa Red­blacks.

Bridge played that role to near per­fec­tion in Satur­day’s 27-24 win over the Toronto Arg­onauts. He re­placed Glenn, who had com­pleted just three of eight passes for 29 yards, in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“Air Canada,” as Bridge is dubbed, guided the Rid­ers to the come-from-be­hind win while throw­ing for 292 yards and two touch­downs.

He also added more fuel to the de­bate about what the CFL should do to en­cour­age teams to carry a qual­i­fied Cana­dian quar­ter­back on the ros­ter. Bridge and An­drew Buck­ley of the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers are the only full-time Cana­dian quar­ter­backs on an ac­tive ros­ter.

The CFL rules don’t pro­vide an in­cen­tive for teams to carry a Cana­dian quar­ter­back be­cause their pass­ports don’t count in the in­ter­na­tional/na­tional ra­tio. Teams can dress three quar­ter­backs of any na­tion­al­ity.

Bridge posted on Twit­ter he would like to talk to CFL com­mis­sioner Randy Am­brosie about chang­ing the ra­tio to ac­count for a Cana­dian who plays quar­ter­back. He chat­ted briefly with Am­brosie dur­ing the Plaza of Hon­our in­duc­tion re­cep­tion at Mo­saic Sta­dium.

“He said he would love to sit down and talk to me when he has time,” Bridge said. “He’s a good guy and I hope it doesn’t get me fined for what I said.”

Bridge grew up in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., and un­like most Cana­di­an­born quar­ter­backs, he headed to the United States to play at the col­le­giate level. He played at Alcorn State for two years be­fore trans­fer­ring to the Univer­sity of South Alabama.

He was se­lected by Mon­treal in the fourth round (31st over­all) of the 2015 draft and has since dressed for 41 CFL games, start­ing only two — one with Mon­treal and one with Saskatchewan.

On Sept. 15, Bridge started for an in­jured Glenn and guided the Roughrid­ers to a 27-19 vic­tory over the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In so do­ing, Bridge be­came the first Cana­dian start­ing quar­ter­back to guide his team to vic­tory since 1985, when Greg Vavra led the Stam­ped­ers to vic­tory.

Bridge has com­pleted 97 of 139 passes for 1,262 yards with 11 touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions in his ca­reer.

This sea­son, he has com­pleted 60 of 86 passes for 817 yards, with nine touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion. He also has nine rushes for 45 yards and a touch­down.

Bridge’s body of work is still small, but his per­for­mance in­di­cates he just might be a Cana­dian quar­ter­back worth watch­ing.

“He’s just a quar­ter­back and what his birth cer­tifi­cate said doesn’t mat­ter to me,” Rid­ers quar­ter­backs coach Jar­i­ous Jack­son said. “He can spin the foot­ball and he gets us in the right plays and that’s all that re­ally mat­ters.”

PETER POWER/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sec­ond-year Roughrider Bran­don Bridge hopes to be a trail­blazer for Cana­dian quar­ter­backs in the CFL.

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