Western QB Chris Merchant to join Ticats for training camp as he strives for pro football opportunity

Western Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant is set to attend Ticats training camp as part of the CFL internship program for Canadian pivots.

It will be the second CFL training camp for Merchant as he spent 2017 with his hometown Calgary Stampeders and got an inside look at how Bo Levi Mitchell operates.

“Learning how a professional goes about his business helped and what the arm strength needs to be. Bo is a professional each and every day, the other players respect him, they know he’s the guy. I took that away, you have to be a leader each second, everyone is always watching. The way he throws the ball and leads his offence is something special,” Merchant said.

“The Ticats have a couple great quarterbacks and a coaching staff with June Jones as well, so I’m excited to learn from Jeremiah Masoli. I’ll take whatever I can from that camp and get better.”

Coming out of St. Andrews College in 2014, Merchant was the top Canadian quarterback recruit and chose to accept a scholarship from the University of Buffalo over several other NCAA Division I offers. He redshirted for one year and played one game in 2015. Despite a strong spring game performance where he completed 7-of-10 passes for 132 yards, Merchant realized he wasn’t going to be the starter and wanted to find a school with that opportunity. Western University provided that chance. Merchant took over the starting job while developing under Greg Marshall, one-time Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach.

“He’s committed to getting better. He does as much as he can to improve his throwing mechanics and works hard in the weight room,” Marshall said.

“Chris has a high ceiling because he’s coachable, athletic and he wants it. If you want to play at a high level you gotta work and put the time in, Chris is doing that.”

Merchant, Marshall and the Mustangs put together a perfect 12-0 season and capped it off by beating Laval to win the 2017 Vanier Cup championship. Merchant was the MVP of the national title game completing 13-of-20 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown while adding 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Under Merchant’s leadership, Western put up 39 points against a Rouge et Or defence that allowed 9.6 points per game in the regular season.

“He took some huge hits in the Vanier Cup and made throws knowing he was going to take hits,” Marshall said.

“That’s hard to coach, stand in there under the rush and make plays Chris is very good at that.”

After spending parts of three seasons as a bench boss for the Ticats, Marshall has a real up-close perspective on what it takes for a quarterback to succeed in the CFL. The 59-year-old football lifer absolutely believes Merchant can play at the professional level and he knows where the six-foot-three, 209-pound signal caller needs to improve.

“Velocity on the football. Chris has great touch on the ball, makes good decisions, athletic, elusive and not afraid at times to put his head down and get a first down. The biggest thing right now is arm strength. He’s gotten better, more velocity on the football. Chris is getting stronger, but that’s the one area he needs to continue to improve,” Marshall said.

Scouts can see Merchant has the physical traits and intriguing skills to potentially earn a real chance in the pro three-down game. Merchant is bigger than when personnel men last laid eyes on him and his confidence is on the rise.

“The goal has always been to play professional football,” Merchant said. “It’s definitely reachable and obtainable.”

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
Justin Dunk
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Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (752 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

19 Comments on Western QB Chris Merchant to join Ticats for training camp as he strives for pro football opportunity

  1. Wonder why he never came back to the Stamps? They brought Buckey in twice. 5

    • I’m not sure how much choice the USport QBs have about where they attend training camp. Besides attending different training camps is going to give them different perspectives and show them different offensive systems. All good for learning more about the pro game.

  2. White Horse // May 15, 2018 at 9:13 pm //

    There you go Huff. A Calgary boy who could work his way into a Buckley replacement.
    Likely last year’s Stamps camp showed his arm strength and Huff saw that.
    He deserves this chance with the Cats.

  3. Dundas dude // May 15, 2018 at 10:09 pm //

    He sure took a licking in the Vanier Cup and continued to perform…a tough kid. His offensive line was dominant at Western , with the running backs recording incredible stats. Hopefully he can lead Western to another championship and then maybe play for the Cats.

  4. Just saying // May 15, 2018 at 10:26 pm //

    Huff saw that he deserved a chance with the stamps? Ok huffhider

  5. Bleeding Green // May 15, 2018 at 11:10 pm //

    Who do the Stamps have for backups right now?

  6. Edward Leslie // May 15, 2018 at 11:48 pm //

    Just Ricky Stanzi. They signed a guy named Blake Jackson, whos listed as a DB, but played Quarterback in Division 1. I forget which school.
    Its strange though with training camp days away and the Stamps have hardly any QBs signed up.

  7. Just saying // May 16, 2018 at 1:03 am //

    There’s only one DD and he just came across $70,000

  8. Edward Leslie // May 16, 2018 at 2:45 am //

    Drew Tate’s still looking for employment. If Hufnagel needs a backup QB, Tate’s a good choice.
    Orhers deserving a call: Ex-Alouette starter Rakeem Cato and Canadian QB Christian Strong, a three year starter at Division 2 Seton Hill.

    • The Stamps are going to camp with only TWO QBs.
      BLM and Stanzi.
      Merchant is gong to the Ticats camp with 5 other QBs
      O’Connor is going to the Argos camp with 5 other QBs
      5 Qbs at Ottawa’s camp
      5 QBs at the Als camp
      4 QBs at the Bombers camp
      4 QBs at the Riders camp
      5 QBs at the Esks camp
      4 QBs at the Lions camp

      • Training camp begins this weekend, a little late for Calgary to sign a couple of QBs.
        Maybe they are waiting for other team’s QB cuts

  9. High time the league put in some incentives rule wise for the teams to develop homegrown QB’s. I’ve seen so many duds come up from the south and stink the place out only to get another start. As soon as a Canuck QB stumbles people are all over them saying they can’t play at this level.

  10. RalphInTheCreek // May 16, 2018 at 7:56 am //

    A lot of good QB coaching this year with the TiCats at camp.

  11. Edward Leslie // May 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm //

    Iggy: You nailed it. When Andrew Buckley, who was a young and inexperienced quarterback, struggled a bit in a game, so many said “See! He’s not good enough.” Yet American QBs like Matt Nichols, Jeremiah Masoli, Trevor Harris and others got lots of opportunities to play and struggled before developing into the fine quarterbacks that they are today. And, as you said, many didn’t get better but still stayed in the CFL for years: Jeff Mathews, Adrian Mcpherson, Alex Brink, Bryant Moniz, Ryan Dinwiddie, etc, etc.

    At the very least, the CFL should allow the starting quarterback to count toward the ratio of seven Canucks, if they start. Teams should also have a limit of three American QBs. So if they carry a fourth on the actual roster (like Toronto did) or have one on the Practice Roster, he should be a Canadian.

    I hope to see Merchant in the CFL in 2019 and Michael O’Connor in 2020.

  12. MJ Bandit // May 16, 2018 at 8:44 pm //

    Merchant & O/Connor are likely 10x better QB talents than stiffs like Matthews, Shitz, Davis, Goltz, Lindely, etc. etc. – who all get lots of CFL looks and opportunity; don’t look for any Canadian QBs to get the same chances. And changing the ratio rule to have Canadian QBs count will do next to nothing there, IMO. It;s all to do with attitudes and bias of the typical CFL decision maker – they want next to nothing to do with Canadian QBs and are actually frightened of the prospect of them getting real TC chances to compete – their “intern” program or whatever they call it is a total joke / feel good show on paper only.

    • unfortunately I agree with you about the bias, It is the same as it was with black quarterbacks in the NFL before Warren Moon,Doug Williams and others.

      • I’ve always said the Canadian QB is the Jackie Robinson position of the CFL. Sadly we have no Branch Rickey.

        • MJ Bandit // May 18, 2018 at 9:09 pm //

          There hasn’t been a Canadian start at D-half regularly in the CFL in something like 3 decades (Darryl Sampson for the Bombers is last i recall) – another position that is reserved for Americans only in the “radically canadian” (sic) CFL.

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