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MONTREAL — It was last call for Vernon Adams Jr. and it wasn’t at 3 a.m., on Crescent Street in Montreal.
It came at 11:20 of the third quarter of the first game of the regular season in Edmonton when Adams came into the game against the Eskimos.
Seldom is a turning point of a season and a career so well defined.
“It was probably my last shot at playing,” said the fourth-year quarterback who was past his clipboard-carrying year and desperately needed to seize the moment to have a real career.
“For me to come in and be successful meant so much. It was important for me to show the team and the coaches that I could do it. I did it. And here we are today.”
Adams seized the opportunity, bringing the Als back to tie the game before eventually losing it. And Sunday is another one as the quarterback plays his first playoff game here against those same Edmonton Eskimos.
Montreal was predicted by most to win no more than two or three football games.
The Als had no owner. Head coach Mike Sherman was fired and replaced by offensive coordinator Khari Jones the week before the regular season. General manager Kavid Reed was axed a few games into the season. And, oh, yes, they had no quarterback.
Antonio Pitkin started the season that first game in Edmonton. But then Khari Jones sent in Adams, whom he said came to camp No. 4 on the depth chart and, “made it pretty clear in my mind just whom the starting quarterback was going to be.”
While Adams knew it was likely last call for him, he also knew the history of CFL quarterbacks. And as far as he was concerned, it was the right time and place.
“I know Kevin Glenn, Darian Durant, Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Matt Nichols, Trevor Harris and all those guys were never starters right off the go,” Adams said.
“I guess it was the same thing for me as them. You just have to pay your dues. You can’t just come up here and think you’re going to play right away and be successful at it. You have to put in the work and put in the time, show up early, leave late, be around the guys and do all the right things. It takes so guys longer than others.”
It didn’t help having Johnny Manziel, the highly hyped Heisman Trophy winner who plain and simple wasn’t good enough to play in this league, show up in Montreal last year and climb ahead of him on the totem pole.
“That’s life. I just looked at that as being what it was and continued paying my dues. Whatever happens in life, that is life. Everybody has to go through some adversity. You just have to do it,” he said with emotion in his voice in our one-on-one interview.
“Yeah, it took me four years. It took Bo Levi three. Most of those guys it took three or four years.”
Vernon Adams Jr. did it. He became a CFL starting quarterback and some would even say a CFL star as Montreal’s unanimous choice in the Most Outstanding Player nominations. Adams finished second in the league in touchdown passes with 24 and led the league with 46 completions of 20 yards or more. He also rushed for 394 and an average of 4.8.
“I don’t think I’m a star yet. I’m just trying to win games. That’s it, man.”
Maybe we should have seen this coming. Vernon Adams Jr. is a graduate of Eastern Washington University. He comes from a long list of Eagles quarterbacks and players that went north to play Canadian football.
“Bo Levi Mitchell and Matt Nichols came out of Eastern Washington and our coach there, Bo Baldwin, also coached Mike Reilly as well. So I count him. On defence J.C. Sherritt, Greg Peach and T.J. Lee also played there. With the quarterbacks, I think it was the coach.”
That might also have been the case with Khari Jones taking over in Montreal.
Timing is everything and having Khari Jones take over as head coach, was a big part of his success story this season.
“I think that was very important. He was a quarterback in this league. He knows and understands the game and the position. It’s cool to relate to him,” said Adams.
The Alouettes became a remarkable revival story and stunned the league with a 10-8 season.
And now it’s show time for Adams again to prove what he did in the regular season was the real deal as the Alouettes play their first playoff game since 2014.
Quarterbacks, as a rule, don’t enjoy playing against the Eskimos front seven.
“Obviously we know that their front seven is the heart and soul of their defense. That defensive line is leading the league in sacks and quarterback pressures. We know we have to control the ball on offence and try to contain Trevor Harris on defence. That will be a tough task. But we’ve done it before and I think we can do it again.”
That was a 20-10 Als win over the Esks.
Since then he’s directed five fourth quarter comeback wins and, if Sunday’s ticket sales are any indication, revived the franchise in the quirky stadium.
Now defences no longer enjoy playing against Adams.
“I’m just excited for this opportunity and ready to go,” he said.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019