Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo was doubting himself heading into his first career CFL start.
The 28-year-old had been a backup and short yardage specialist for the first three years of his career in Canada. After Zach Collaros was literally knocked out of the game in Week 1 last year, Fajardo came off the bench and completed 9-of-17 passes for 66 yards in a 23-17 loss at Tim Hortons Field.
“That Hamilton game, my stats weren’t very good, the offence didn’t really fit me,” Fajardo said on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage.
Despite the defeat, head coach Craig Dickenson named Fajardo the starter for Week 2 in Ottawa. He was able to take all the reps in practice and feel comfortable in the scheme. Although, Fajardo was questioning himself and his abilities.
“There was still that little guy in the back of my head saying, ‘Can you play quarterback?'” Fajardo wondered.
Fajardo was a star at the University of Nevada from 2010 to 2014, passing for 9,000 yards passing and 57 touchdowns while rushing for 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns. However, at the time, his last start as a QB came in December 2014 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
“I didn’t want to go in there and have to feel like I have to carry this team and that was one of the conversations I had with Coach Dickie leading up to that Ottawa game,” Fajardo said.
“He’s like, ‘Look, you’re a talented quarterback but I don’t need you to come in and take over and be this superstar. It was almost a relief, but you still want to go out and perform well.”
That’s what Fajardo did. The dual-threat pivot connected on 27-of-34 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns — zero interceptions — with a rushing major as well. He helped the Riders offence score 41 points in a narrow 44-41 defeat versus the Redblacks.
“Not turning the ball over, obviously, is every quarterback’s goal every game. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young back or an old veteran,” Fajardo said.
“When I was going into that Ottawa game, my No. 1 goal was don’t try to do too much. We had a very talented team, and I knew if I tried to do too much then I would put our team in a bad situation.”
Fajardo skillfully displayed his superstar potential and leadership qualities. After Saskatchewan dropped to 0-2, the green and white won 13 of the next 16 games, earning first place in the West Division. The Riders rewarded Fajardo with a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season, which pays over $400,000 annually.
That answered Fajardo’s own question.