Hobbs touches down in Montreal

Gaels quarterback invited to Alouettes training camp

Hobbs (centre), took part in the Alouettes camp as part of the CFL-CIS internship program.
Hobbs (centre), took part in the Alouettes camp as part of the CFL-CIS internship program.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Queen’s quarterback Nate Hobbs was just having a regular weekend when he received a cryptic text message from head coach Pat Sheahan, telling him he’d be heading to Quebec for the Montreal Alouettes Rookie Training camp.

“I said ‘okay can you give me the details’ and he never really got back to me,” Hobbs said.

Not knowing exactly when he’d be leaving, Hobbs attended his regular Tuesday morning meeting with the Gaels coaching staff. There, he found out that any plans he had for the rest of the week would have to be scrapped, as in less than an hour he would be on a train to Montreal.

“I had to pack my bags in 20 minutes,” Hobbs said. “It was pretty crazy to be honest.”

For the next week, Hobbs joined the Alouettes under the CFL’s quarterback internship program, which has the top quarterbacks in the CIS go to practices and video sessions with teams in the CFL.

During the Rookie camp, Hobbs was able to learn from players he grew up watching in the CFL. 

Hobbs spent as much time as he could picking the brain of former Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo. Calvillo retired in 2014 as professional football’s all-time passing yards leader with 79,816 yards, transitioning now into his role as the team’s quarterback coach.

For Hobbs, this time with Calvillo gave him insight into what it means to be a professional quarterback — focusing the small details.

“I was just trying to absorb as much as I can,” Hobbs said. “Even if it is how they walk around, how they encourage their teammates to how they throw the ball.”

Last year in his first season with the Gaels, Hobbs threw for 2,226 yards — fifth best in the OUA — and 14 touchdowns. Guiding the team’s young offence, Hobbs led Queen’s to a 5-3 record, bouncing back from their disappointing 2014-15 season where they would go below .500 for the first time since 2010.

Hobbs isn’t the first Queen’s quarterback to practice with CFL teams. In 2013 Billy McPhee — Queen’s starting quarterback before Hobbs’ — joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats as apart of the same internship.

Prior to the program’s inception, two of Queen’s greatest quarterbacks, Tom Denison and Danny Brannagan, both signed as free agents for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts respectively. While they were seen as two players with the greatest chances to play at the next level, neither were given the time to develop.

List of current Gaels at CFL camps, as well as where all quarterbacks have played.  Data compiled by Valentino Muiruri

Since 1991, only six Canadian quarterbacks have thrown a regular season pass in the CFL, and when Alouettes’ back-up QB Brandon Bridge played in their season finale last year, he was Canada’s first starter in over 19 years.

The major reason why it has been difficult for Canadian quarterbacks to have any significant impact is due to the league’s ratio policy.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the CFL requires that teams fill a specific quota for Canadian players — 21 Canadians, 20 imports and three quarterbacks must be on the 44-man roster.
 
Since quarterbacks’ nationalities aren’t counted under this rule, teams have no incentive to invest in the development of Canadian quarterbacks.
 
To further development while not taking up the small amount of quarterback roster spots, the CFL introduced the internship to develop Canadian talent.
 
Even with this, CFL Yahoo Sports writer Andrew Bucholtz believes that the league is set up for Canadian quarterbacks to fail.
 
“The rules give no incentive to play a Canadian at quarterback compared to any other position,” he said in a previous interview with The Journal.
 
“They get told they might get a look at CFL camp, throw a few passes but then they would either have to switch positions which is very difficult, or they have to give up football.”
 
With the chances being slim-to-none for a Canadian quarterback to make it in the CFL, Hobbs knows that being able to go to rookie camp was a once in a lifetime experience.
 
“It is a fulfilling experience to be at that level,” Hobbs said. “Even if it is only for a week, being able to do that means a lot.”

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