Alouettes starting quarterback Drew Willy wants to prove the Blue Bombers made a big mistake when they traded him away two years ago.
Willy will face his former team for the first time on Friday evening as Montreal hosts Winnipeg in its home opener at Percival Molson Stadium.
“Obviously you always want to prove that you’re a high-level player in the league,” said Willy after practice on Thursday. “I get the business moves and all that kind of stuff, but at the same time you do want to prove that you’re playing at a top level and they did make a mistake.
“I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Bombers. There are still a lot of great people in Winnipeg that I still talk to: coaches, fans, people who helped me during my time there. They’ve always been a great organization to me.”
The now 31-year-old Willy joined the Bombers in 2014 after a two-year stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He played well that season, throwing for a career-high 3,769 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Willy played even better the following year until a severe knee injury ended his season seven games in. He played five times at QB for Winnipeg in 2016 before being traded to the Toronto Argonauts, where he appeared in just five matches.
“He did well for us here, for a time,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said. “Drew worked extremely hard and did well and got us to a hell of a good start at 5-1 and then 6-3. Sometimes everything just sort of catches up with you.”
It looked like Willy’s playing days were over when the Argos released him last June before the Alouettes scooped him up.
“Never thought about packing it in,” said the six-foot-four Willy. “I know myskill sett and what I’m capable of doing. A lot of guys have seen that around the league. I had a really good training camp and I’m in a really good place mentally right now.
“I’m just happy to be playing football.”
Willy went 25-of-35 for 281 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Montreal’s season opener last week, a 22-10 loss to the B.C. Lions. The Alouettes (0-1) were kept off the scoreboard for the final three quarters.
Now they prepare to take on a Blue Bombers (0-1) team that blew a late lead to the Edmonton Eskimos in their first game of the season, which lasted nearly six hours because of two lengthy rain delays.
Rookie quarterback Chris Streveler will take the snaps for Winnipeg.
The 23-year-old, who was playing college football at the University of South Dakota last year, threw three touchdown passes in his CFL debut last week. Regular starter Matt Nichols is out with a knee injury sustained in practice earlier this month.
Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman says Streveler’s speed is one of his best assets.
“I think we know what he is,” said Sherman. “He’s a fast guy. We have to be able to contain him. We might not sack him as much as contain him and keep him in the pocket, as opposed to letting him run free. He’s also able to get some yardage with his feet.”
It’s the first of two matchups between the Alouettes and Blue Bombers this season. Winnipeg beat Montreal twice last year.
WINNIPEG (0-1) AT MONTREAL (0-1)
Friday, Percival Molson Stadium
BOWMAN IN DOUBT: Defensive end John Bowman (ankle injury) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday this week. Als coach Mike Sherman said there’s a “good chance he may be out” of the lineup against Winnipeg.
LEGGATT RETURNS: Winnipeg linebacker Maurice Leggett will likely get the start in Montreal. The 31-year-old Leggett suffered a torn Achilles tendon last October. He has not played since.
PROTECT WILLY: Alouettes QB Drew Willy was sacked five times versus the Lions. He can expect a lot of pressure on Friday, especially from defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who led the Bombers with seven sacks last season.
A DOZEN LOSSES: After the defeat in their season opener, the Alouettes have now lost a team record 12 consecutive regular-season games. They went 0-11 to end last season.