Jeremiah Masoli has turned himself into one of Kent Austin’s guys.
The 27-year-old quarterback has reportedly agreed to a two-year contract extension to remain with the Ticats, foregoing the opportunity to hit the free agent market in February. While his play down the stretch was certainly a factor – he led Hamilton to a thrilling playoff over Toronto and played brilliantly in the East Final loss to Ottawa – it was how he handled his time in purgatory that showed, once and for all, just how far Masoli has come.
Masoli came into training camp last spring as a contender for the back up job behind starter Zach Collaros. Entering his third season with the Ticats, he had more experience in the offensive system than newcomer Jeff Mathews or sophomore Jacory Harris. But Masoli struggled while Mathews played brilliantly and when the season began, Masoli had tumbled all the way to No. 4 on the depth chart. He would spend time on the practice roster, theoretically available to any team willing to make a claim.
Instead of pouting, however, Masoli continued to put in the work. He was consistently one of the last players to leave the field after practice, spending time with any receiver or defensive back looking for extra reps. He continued to be a positive influence in the tight-knit quarterback group, sharing his knowledge and experience with the others.
Masoli has, at other times in his life, been knocked for a a perceived lack of maturity. He’s made some mistakes and paid dearly for them. But this season, with every excuse to mentally and physically check out, Masoli stayed committed. It earned him the respect – or even more respect – from teammates and coaches.
So when his time came, the locker room believed in Masoli. He’s always had a winner’s charisma, a certain kind of intensity that teammates get behind. When Collaros went down and Mathews followed, then Harris struggled – when there was nobody else left to save a season on the brink – Masoli was ready.
But with the exception of the East Final loss to Ottawa when he threw for 326 yards on 30 for 42 passing with two touchdowns, Masoli’s numbers are still pedestrian. He has completed just 45.5 per cent of his regular season passes, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. His dual-threat skill set – he has 4.8 per-carry average – is not a particularly good fit for Hamilton’s pass-happy attack: the team essentially re-made their offensive scheme on the fly to get the most from Masoli in the playoffs.
Like all coaches and general managers, Austin has “his guys,” players he feels have the physical and mental make up to thrive in their system. Mathews, quite clearly, came in as an Austin guy. So is Simoni Lawrence. Three years into Austin’s tenure, most of the players who aren’t are already long gone.
Masoli, whatever his shortcomings, has made himself into an Austin guy by falling and getting back up, then performing at a high level when it mattered most. It obviously means something to him, too, because he’s decided to stay instead of looking elsewhere. Another sign of a player that’s learned the value of continuity and stability. At 27, there’s still lots of room for growth.
This spring, Masoli will be back competing with Mathews for the No. 2 job – which could be the No. 1 job for as long as Collaros takes to recover from knee surgery. But instead off going up against an Austin guy, as he did last year, Masoli will take to the field as one of them.
He’s earned it.