Riders’ QB Cody Fajardo has something to prove to the NFL, but it would mean starting over

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo had an NFL opportunity in 2015, however, it doesn’t seem like he wants another shot south of the border.

“For me, I love the CFL. I think my strengths and weaknesses of my game fit so well in the CFL. I’m in a position now where my contract is a really good contract and so I’m not chasing money,” Fajardo told Nevada Sportsnet.

Fajardo signed a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season with the Riders in October, which pays over $400,000 annually. Following a decorated career at the University of Nevada, Fajardo went unselected in the 2015 NFL draft, but inked an undrafted free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.

“As much as it would mean a lot for me to go to the NFL because I have something to prove, I would have to start all over. If I sign with an NFL team they can just cut me in training camp and then I lose half of the CFL year which is really half of a salary,” Fajardo said.

Even though Fajardo is one of only two players in NCAA history with over 9,000 yards passing (57 touchdowns) and 3,000 yards rushing (44 touchdowns) — Colin Kaepernick the other — the Raiders released him after training camp. Just over a month later, Fajardo agreed to a pact with the Toronto Argonauts.

“Without the CFL I wouldn’t be playing football right now. It’s such a great league, a lot of people who watch it especially in the U.S., they find it so much more exciting,” Fajardo said.

While with the Argos for three years, Fajardo received a masters degree from one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the CFL. Fajardo played a short yardage roll during the double blue’s improbable Grey Cup championship in 2017.

“I learned from a Hall of Famer in Ricky Ray — who is like the Peyton Manning of the CFL,” Fajardo said.

There was one season in B.C. prior to Fajardo coming to Saskatchewan during free agency in February 2019. Zach Collaros went down in game one and Fajardo took over the starting role. He led the Riders to a 12-4 record as the starter during the regular schedule and first place in the West Division.

“The first game I played in coming off the bench I didn’t play very well and there was a little bit of controversy between me and the other guy [Isaac Harker] for the next week. And they were like well, they’re going to battle it out in practice and see who starts,” Fajardo said.

“I felt like I had a pretty good practice. My first start I think my second throw I overthrew the guy by like 10 yards. I’m even thinking, well there’s my chance. And then we went out there the next series, play the next play mentality.”

The 27-year-old threw for 4,302 yards while completing over 71 per cent of his passes with 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions in his first season as a No. 1 QB. The dual-threat pivot used his legs for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns on 107 rushing attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Fajardo was the West Division Most Outstanding Player and CFL all-star quarterback.

“I actually separated my shoulder [Week 8 against Hamilton], the adrenaline got me going through it. My wife [Laura] is becoming a doctor now in physical therapy so she got me ready to go,” Fajardo said.

“All nine [starting] quarterbacks in the CFL this year got injured, I was the last one standing until the last game of the year. I tore two muscles in my oblique. And so I felt like I was the iron man. There was some curse on quarterbacks.”

Sprinkles of Jesus helped keep Saskatchewan’s face of the franchise as healthy as possible. Fajardo wants to buy a house and make his off-season home in Reno, Nevada, but Regina has become his football home.

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