Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo attempts a pass on the run during first half CFL West Division final action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Regina, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Fajardo, who'd previously been with Toronto (2015-17) and B.C. (2018), stepped in and took control of the offence, helping Saskatchewan (13-5) finish atop the West Division standings. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

Riders quarterback Fajardo unsure where he’d be without Lawrence’s hit on Collaros

Riders quarterback Fajardo unsure where he’d be without Lawrence’s hit on Collaros

With one play, Simoni Lawrence changed the path of Cody Fajardo’s CFL career.

Fajardo entered the 2019 season as Saskatchewan’s backup and short-yardage quarterback behind Zach Collaros. But the 28-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after just three plays in the Roughriders’ season-opening 23-17 road loss in Hamilton when Lawrence’s hit to Collaros’s head landed the quarterback on the injured list and Lawrence a two-game suspension.

Fajardo, who’d previously been with Toronto (2015-17) and B.C. (2018), stepped in and took control of the offence, helping Saskatchewan (13-5) finish atop the West Division standings. With the six-foot-two, 215-pound Fajardo excelling, the Riders dealt Collaros to Toronto on July 31.

But the story doesn’t end there. Toronto eventually sent Collaros to Winnipeg, where he helped lead the Blue Bombers past Hamilton – and Lawrence — 33-12 in the Grey Cup game for the franchise’s first CFL title since 1990.

“I don’t know where I’d be if I just sat as a backup all year and didn’t have a chance to play,” Fajardo said during a Grey Cup Unite players videoconference Thursday with none other than Lawrence and Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. “How many guys are going to take a chance on a 28-year-old short-yardage quarterback?

“I really don’t know, I might be out of the league to tell you the truth. Just getting my first opportunity in six years was actually a blessing for me to go out there and play football again.”

Fajardo said the situation was unique in that all three principles excelled as a result.

“I think all three players in such an interesting situation all won,” he said. “I was able to sign a lucrative contract to be a franchise quarterback, Zach Collaros goes off and wins the Grey Cup and my man Simoni has a great year playing football.

“That’s just one of those things, that rare occasion where something that could’ve been so bad actually turned out to be a positive.”

The gregarious Lawrence, who isn’t afraid to speak his mind on the field, led the league with a career-high 98 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions in 15 regular-season games. He was named the East Division’s top defensive player, but was runner-up to Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson for the league honour.

“I’m just glad everybody is OK from it and got what they wanted,” Lawrence said. “To speak for myself, if the play didn’t happen I probably would’ve got defensive player of the year.”

Fajardo remains under contract with Saskatchewan through the ‘21 season. But head coach Craig Dickenson made it clear Wednesday he’d like to see Fajardo, the West Division’s outstanding player in 2019 and CFL all-star, signed to a long-term deal.

“He’s certainly our franchise quarterback and the leader on our offence,” Dickenson told reporters during a videoconference. “We’re going to make sure that we have him signed up for the long-term.”

That’s certainly music to Fajardo’s ears.

”It’s just good to hear the echoing from management and the head coach saying they like me as a franchise quarterback,” said Fajardo. “Once there’s a commitment to play and we finally know that there will be a 2021 CFL season, I can see the talks creating some heat and interacting a little more.”

In August, the CFL cancelled its plans for an abbreviated ‘20 season in Winnipeg due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Grey Cup game was slated for Regina but the city will now host the 2022 contest.

While very disappointed to not play this season. Fajardo said the extended time off hasn’t been all bad.

“I guess the biggest silver lining to the whole thing is having my body recover for a full year,” he said. “I haven’t had that happen since I started playing football when I was six years old.”

Earlier this week, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie expressed optimism that the league will be able to resume play in 2021. And if that happens, Fajardo expects action to heat up quickly.

“It’s going to be crazy to see the first couple of games in the CFL next year,” he said. “Guys are going to be so excited to compete, you’re going to see everyone giving all effort every single play like it’s a playoff game and we’re going to be in Week 1.

“I think it will be very exciting for fans, media, everyone around the league to watch this great product.”

Mitchell agreed.

“If you thought Simoni talked a lot before, just wait for that first game he gets out there (in 2021),” he said with a chuckle.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

CFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Canada's top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue mounting in much of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers

Canada’s top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

Most Read