Isaac Harker began his first CFL game holding the clipboard, but by the end of it he had the ball in his hands trying to lead the Riders to a comeback win.
Zach Collaros suffered a head injury from a shot supplied by Ticats’ linebacker Simoni Lawrence on the third snap of the game, which earned Hamilton’s defender a two-games suspension and put Saskatchewan’s No. 1 quarterback on the six-game injured list. Back-up Coday Fajardo left the game due to injury in the third quarter, which gave way to Harker for the remaining fifteen minutes of the contest.
“It’s a young kid that can throw the ball. Especially when he comes in and says, ‘You know what? We’re going to get this, we’re going to win this game. We’re going to put it on our shoulders and go,'” veteran Riders offensive lineman Dan Clark said.
“You just believe that. All the credit to him, that’s a big move especially for being a young kid. You just gotta have that confidence and that will power.”
Harker completed his first five passes and finished 8-of-14 for 128 yards and two interceptions, both of which came in moment of desperation. There were two connections with K.D. Cannon that came within shoelace tackles of going all the way to the end zone.
“I liked what he did out there. He’s a gritty performer. He came off, he made a mistake and the first thing he wanted to say was apologize to the team,” Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson said.
“He’s got a lot of grit, he’s a competitive kid and I think he can make some throws. I thought he rallied and did a nice job thrown into a very difficult circumstances.”
After putting up video game numbers — 3,858 yards and 39 touchdowns against 12 interceptions — during his senior season at the Colorado School of Mines for the Orediggers, Harker impressed the Riders enough at a free agent gathering to get a spot in training camp. He kept improving and showing well, earning a spot on the Riders’ final roster.
“I don’t think anybody expects [to play] when you’re coming in as the third guy, but you’re always prepared just because that’s your job. I knew I was prepared for every play that was on the wrist band, so I was ready to roll,” Harker said.
“After Zach stayed down for a little while after the third play, you know you’re one play away now. You always gotta be ready. He said he knew I was ready and that I was going to go win us the game. Those are the kind of things that make you go out there really loose and play like yourself.”
Dickenson said Harker has some moxie. The rookie CFL quarterback looked more like a confident veteran during his first live regular season action in the three-down game. That was evident by Harker targeting balls at receivers even though Delvin Breaux, hailed as the league’s best pure cover man, was lurking.
Fajardo will start Thursday in Ottawa, but Harker is set to see action as the Riders employ a quarterback tandem. It’s early, but Harker could be Saskatchewan’s quarterback of the future.