Peterborough native Brad Sinopoli made the Stampeders 2011 roster
It has been well over a decade since a Canadian born quarterback has started at quarterback in a regular season game in the Canadian Football League.
Throughout the leagues history there have been very few quarterbacks born in Canada to have any degree of success starting in the CFL. Russ Jackson was dominant, amazing and clearly an anomaly. 2010 Hec Creighton winner Brad Sinopoli was drafted by Calgary and has made the 2011 active roster.
Import Rules and the overflow of U.S. College quarterbacks from Division I and II conspire against the
Canadian quarterback in the CFL. With its current structure there is no roster benefit to Canadian Football League teams of having a home brew at quarterback. As a result for most CFL Coaches and General Managers the only benefits would stem from the business side and marketing of a Canadian quarterback.
Professional football is a results business measured in wins and losses and therefore the commitment and time to develop a Canadian quarterback is just not there for Coaches in Canadian Football.
Over the past 40 years only a small number of Canadian quarterbacks have been on a CFL roster much less have any impact. Here is a selection of that group.
Brad Sinopoli - Calgary - 2011 - Ottawa
Brad Sinopoli had a strong career with the Ottawa Gee Gees and was named the 2010 winner of the Hec Creighton Award. He was selected by the Stampeders in the 4th round 29th overall in 2011. The 6'4" Sinopoli played well in training camp and made the 2011 roster as the 3rd string quarterback. He did not see any game action in the regular season and returned to the club for training camp in 2012. He led Calgary in a come from behind victory over Edmonton in a pre-season game however lost the 3rd string duties to American born pivot Bo Levi Mitchell. An injury to Drew Tate early in the 2012 season opened the door for Sinopoli to return to the Stampeders as the 3rd string quarterback. Brad has continued his career with Calgary successfully transitioning to a receiver role.
Danny Brannagan - Toronto - 2010 - Queens
Danny Brannagan led the Queen's Golden Gaels to the 2009 Vanier Cup. He concluded his CIS career as the 2nd leading passer in the Country's College football history. As a Canadian Quarterback he was overlooked in the CFL draft but did sign with the Toronto Argonauts after an impressive showing at the annual CFL evaluation camp. Brannagan saw action in the first pre-season game with Toronto and spent the majority of the season on the practice roster. With 3rd string quarterback Ken Dorsey suffering an injury in practice, Brannagan was summoned to the active roster for the final game of the 2010 season. In the 4th quarter the Burlington native was inserted at quarterback and completed 2 of 4 attmepts for 32 yards versus the Alouettes. It was the first action under center in a regular season CFL game for a Canadian quarterback since Giulio Caravatta in 1997. Brannagan was cut by Toronto after the 2011 training camp.
Jesse Palmer Montreal 2006 Florida
Jesse 'The Bachelor' Palmer has become a respected football analyst in Canada (TSN) and the United State (ESPN). The Nepean native played college football for the Florida Gators splitting time with Rex Grossman under coach Steve Spurrier. Palmer was drafted and spent 4 seasons with the New York Giants that incuded 1 start. In 2006 Palmer was released by the Giants. After some time with San Francisco he was out of the NFL. He joined the Montreal Alouettes midway through the 2006 season. The Alouettes had drafted Palmer in the 2002 CFL draft. Palmer did not see any game action with Montreal as a 3rd stringer behind Anthony Calvillo but he did get to travel to the Grey Cup in Winnipeg where Montreal was defeated by British Columbia. There was talk of a CFL team in Ottawa owned in part by Palmers father Bill a former Rough Rider. Conceivably Jesse would be first in line as the franchises quarterback. The ownership never materialized and Palmer decided to retire as a player after the 2006 season.
Tommy Denison Winnipeg - Calgary 2004 Queens
Tommy Denison was an outstanding collegiate quarterback with Queens. He captured the Hec Creighton as the nations top football player in 2002 and 2003. Upon graduating Denison spent some time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers seeing action in the pre-season and then with the Matt Dunigan led Calgary Stampeders in 2004. Denison would end up being cut early in the season without making it into a game. The native of Beamsville Ontario had a strong arm and good football sense but was never given the opportunity in regular season CFL action.
Giulio Caravatta B.C. 1991-98 Simon Fraser
Giulio a native of Toronto Ontario made his 8 season career in the CFL as a kick-off specialist and occasional punter in B.C. It was his pedigree at Simon Fraser University as a Quarterback as well that enabled him to see action as a back-up quarterback over 3 season 1995-97. He played sparingly at Quarterback but did start a game in the 1996 season the last Canadian Quarterback to do so. Currently Giulio lives on the West Coast and is employed as a broadcaster for both the B.C. Lions and Sportsnet television.
Larry Jusdanis B.C. - Hamilton 1996 Acadia
Larry Jusdanis was an All-Canadian with the Acadia Axeman in 1995. He was drafted by the B.C. Lions in the 5th round of the 1995 draft. Jusdanis a Hamilton native was traded to his hometown team in 1996 and after injuries sidelined first Matt Dunigan and then Anthony Calvillo, Jusdanis was thrust into the starting spot. He started a game against Calgary in July of 1996 and with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions was defeated by Jeff Garcia. Jusdanis was then released midway through the 1996 season by Hamilton who brought in veteran Mike Kerrigan to stem the tide. Jusdanis a big strong quarterback was never again given an opportunity to start in the CFL. He did attend training camp with the Toronto Argonauts in 2001 but was cut prior to the season.
Bob Torrance Calgary - Hamilton 1991-93 - Calgary
Bob was a home town draft pick of the Stampeders in the 3rd round of the 1991 Amateur Draft out of the University of Calgary. The Calgary native saw his first regular season action with Calgary in 1992. Bob signed with Hamilton in 1993 and played as a starter for the Ticats. The pressure was significant on the Canadian to succeed in the CFL as noted by his teammate in Hamilton at the time Don McPherson. Dark Thoughts - September 1999 - Jon Entine Online
In his second-to-last year in the game, a dismal 1993 season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, McPherson found himself being replaced as quarterback in midseason by Bob Torrance, a Canadian quarterback who had started for the University of Calgary. "It created a sensation when Torrance started." McPherson recalls, "No one believed a Canadian could compete with an American quarterback, black or white. 'Could a Canadian college quarterback play in the CFL?'that was the story line in the media."
"I remember sitting in the stands one day in Winnipeg before his first start, trying to calm his butterflies, and it really hit me hard: Wow, everyone just assumes he will fail. It brought back all the bad memories. I felt like he knew exactly what it had been like for me, for black quarterbacks trying to make it in the NFL."
Greg Vavra Calgary - B.C. 1984-88 Calgary
Greg Vavra was a collegiate superman with the Calgary Dinos. He led the Dinos to the Vanier Cup in 1983 and captured the Hec Creighton award for his efforts. A superb athlete with great instincts the struggling Stampeders made the home town hero the clubs starting quarterback in his rookie season. It was a lot for the freshman to handle and he struggled as did the team to a 4-12 record. Vavra would not have another sustained opportunity as a starter in the CFL and after 6 seasons in the league with Calgary and BC he retired from professional football.
Luc Tousignant - Montreal - 1982 - Fairmont State University
Luc a native of Trois Rivieres Quebec was a collegiate standout at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. He set several school passing records and was an 8th round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1982 NFL draft. In 1982 the native son spent the 1982 season with the Montreal Concordes. Under intense pressure as the only French Canadian Quarterback to start in the Canadian Football League, Tousignant struggled on a bad team that finished the season with a forgettable 2-14 record. It would be Luc's only season in the CFL. A disappointing end for a promising Canadian born talent.
Gerry Dattilio Montreal - Calgary 1975-85 Northern Colorado
Gerry grew up in Chomeday Quebec and was a star high school football player. He played college football at Northern Colorado as a quarterback and is a member of that schools hall of fame. He was signed as a territorial exemption by the Montreal Alouettes in 1976 and was briefly with the Toronto Argonauts before returning to Montreal as the 3rd string quarterback and occasional receiver. He received playing time at quarterback in 1979 behind Joe Barnes and when Barnes was traded in 1980 Dattilio was the clubs starting quarterback. In 1979 he had his best season as a professional and was named the East Division nominee for Outstanding Player. He spent the 1982-82 season with Calgary before returning to Montreal to conclude his career in 1986. A true anomaly and the last bona-fide Canadian starter in the CFL Dattilio parlayed determination into a solid 10 season CFL career.
Bill Robinson - Ottawa - 1974-79 - St.Mary's
Bill Robinson is one of the greatest football players in the history of the St. Mary's football program. He led the Huskies to 2 Vanier Cup titles playing quarterback in Halifax. Robinson was drafted by Ottawa in 1974 in the 3rd round 27th overall. He spent the majority of his 5 seasons in the league as a defensive back but he did serve as a back-up quarterback and saw action under center in the 1975 and '76 regular seasons. Bill had an outstanding collegiate career in Canada and won a Grey Cup as a quarterback on the roster of the 1976 Ottawa Rough Riders
Eric Guthrie - B.C. - Saskatchewan - 1972-77 - Boise State
Eric Guthrie is a legend at Boise State University. The Vancouver native led the Boise State Broncos to a 1971 Carmelia Bowl win and had 19 touchdowns passes that year to be named All Big Sky conference. Guthrie was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 15th round of the 1972 draft. He joined his hometown Lions amid great fanfare for the 1972 & 73 seasons seeing action primarily as a punter. After he spent 1974 with Detroit in the World Football League he returned to B.C. in 1975 to assume a bigger role at quarterback. Guthrie saw his most action in 1976 with the Lions at Quarterback with 1,399 passing yards and 6 touchdowns. Guthrie who also played professional baseball would spend 1 season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1977 backing up legend Ron Lancaster before retiring from Canadian football.
Frank Cosentino Hamilton - Edmonton - Toronto 1960-69 Western
A True historian of Canadian Football evidenced by his highly regarded book A Passing Game Cosentino had a good career as a Canadian Quarterback in the CFL. Frank spent the majority of his time as a Hamilton Tiger Cat which included a number of starts while splitting duties with Joe Zuger and a number of other Ticats. Cosentino spent 2 seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos which included the 1967 season where he was the clubs starter and had respectable numbers. Playing in the same time frame as the incomparable Russ Jackson, Frank had a solid career. The Western product has been a proud and staunch CFL supporter not to mention one of the leading advocates of more Canadian Quarterbacks in the Canadian League.
Russ Jackson Ottawa 1958-69 McMaster
Russ Jackson they do not get any better for Canadian talent in the CFL. A quarterback at McMaster it took a leap of faith and several injuries for one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history to get his opportunity behind center. Once the opportunity was granted there was no stopping the Hamilton native. 3 Grey Cup championships and 3 Most Outstanding Player Awards over an incredible 12 season career, Jackson is the gold standard representing the best of what this country can produce at quarterback.
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