Welcome to the CFL moments for Cody Fajardo: 12 players on the field and bloodied on punt cover

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterbacks Cody Fajardo and Isaac Harker have started a podcast called ‘The Rouge Report‘ and it’s been a hit so far.

Fajardo and Harker share stories from their lives, the CFL and playing careers to date. Both signal callers are open and honest regarding behind-the-scenes moments in the three-down league.

Prior to earning franchise QB status in Regina, Fajardo was trying to earn a roster spot in Toronto. Former general manager Jim Barker signed Fajardo near the end of the 2015 season as the Argos were making a push for a playoff spot.

“My first team reps in Toronto, I’m this practice squad guy and I’m just trying to figure out the game. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to hold onto the football dream. I get out there and here I am, this American guy, who says, ‘Uh, coach, they’ve got 12 guys on the field,'” Fajardo explained.

“The coach looks at me sideways and he’s like, ‘It’s 12-on-12.’ I felt so embarrassed. The whole team is laughing at me and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to be able to play in this league. I can’t come back from that.’ 12-on-12 — it looked like there was 37 guys on defence to me. That one guy makes a huge difference.”

Until that point, Fajardo had played American football exclusively, featuring 11 players per side, four downs, no yard off the ball and a smaller field. Following a productive career at the University of Nevada, the California native was looking to secure a roster spot by any means possible.

“I unfortunately changed the whole landscape of third-string quarterbacks when I was in Toronto when I started playing punt protection and they wanted me to play special teams. I was like, ‘Honestly, I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.’ I just wanted to play football. I got cut from the Raiders, I bounced around from nine NFL team workouts,” Fajardo said.

“They’re like, ‘Hey, would you want to do punt protection?’ And I’m like, ‘Punt protection, what is that?’ We played Sask in the second week and I was the backup punt protector. We had a punt blocked for Sask at old Mosaic and they ran it back for a touchdown. After that game they said, ‘Cody, you’re going to be our punt protector.”

While unconventional, fielding a quarterback in punt protection makes a lot of sense. It can create the threat of a fake run or pass with a skilled throw in the backfield and even the split second hesitation by the return team can allow the punter to get the ball away. Fajardo has those skills and was a “thick” 230 pounds at the time with the Argos.

“My first time ever on punt protection we were playing B.C. and I see Adam Bighill out there. He points at me and says, ‘I got 17.’ I’m No. 17 and you know Bighill — he’s just a freak athlete. We punt this ball, luckily he didn’t blitz — he was just trying to get in my head,” Fajardo said.

“I’m running down field, so tunnel visioned, staring at the guy who returned this football and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to make my first tackle.’ Boom! I get blindsided. Luckily I had my mouthpiece in because I bit my tongue through my mouth piece and I was bleeding everywhere. That was my first rep as punt protector.”

From being unaware of 12 men per side on the Canadian field to being blown up on punt team, Fajardo has come a long way to be the No. 1 QB in Riderville.