3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 34 QB Vernon Adams Jr., Montreal Alouettes

Quarterbacks are like steaks — sometimes they just need some time to marinate before they’re ready.

Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel

From his earliest days on the field, Vernon Adams Jr. flashed potential.

During his time as a high school student at Bishop Alemany, Adams threw for 5,234 yards, picked up 1,263 yards on the ground, scored 68 touchdowns and was named the Serra League MVP while leading his school to a 22-5 record.

Despite his stellar numbers, concerns over Adams’ five-foot-eleven, 200-pound frame meant he received no scholarship offers. He eventually committed to Beau Baldwin’s Eastern Washington University squad, redshirting his first year. Adams went on to earn the starting job and, following the completion of his freshman season, was nominated for the Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the top freshman in the NCAA’s FCS.

Over the next three years, Adams passed for a Big Sky Conference record 110 touchdowns and averaged 282 passing yards per game. His knack for explosive plays was reflected by the 42 completions of 40-plus yards, finishing his time at Eastern Washington with 10,438 passing yards and a 28-6 record as a starter.

In 2015, Adams transferred to the University of Oregon, going 7-3 while completing 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 2,643 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. In the 2016 Alamo Bowl against the 10-2 Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, Adams helped the Ducks build a 31-0 halftime lead before leaving the game with an injury. Thanks to a scoreless second half, Oregon wound up losing the game 47-41 in triple overtime.

Despite finishing his NCAA career with a double digit number of awards to his credit, Adams went unselected in the 2016 NFL draft. Following short rookie mini-camps with Seattle and Washington, Adams found his way north.

The B.C. Lions originally owned his exclusive rights, but those were flipped to Montreal for an Alouettes’ first-round draft pick. Although Adams had immediate CFL success, winning his three first starts in 2016, he opened the 2017 season as Montreal’s backup before being traded to Saskatchewan for a package that included Canadian defensive back Tevaughn Campbell.

The Riders used Adams primarily as their short yardage quarterback and, in the following off-season, Adams found himself traded yet again, this time to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Adams never played a down in Hamilton as the Ticats cut him one week into the 2018 season. He quickly found a new, and familiar, home, signing back where his CFL career started in Montreal. Adams took over from Johnny Manziel but shortly after was injured and missed the rest of the year.

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Adams began the 2019 season behind Antonio Pipkin on the quarterback depth chart. When Pipkin went down with a leg injury, Adams was ready to show his critics that he was finally able to establish himself. His marinating was over.

Despite missing a few games due to injury and a suspension — for an ugly helmet swinging incident that involved Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill — Adams orchestrated an Alouette attack that was one of the most dangerous and entertaining in the league, leading thrilling come-from-behind victories over teams like Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg.

Not only did the Alouettes finish the regular season second place in the East Division, their highest finish since 2012, Adams was named the team’s Most Outstanding Player as Montreal returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

The Alouettes had finally stopped the revolving door at the quarterback position that featured stints by Jonathan Crompton, Troy Smith, Alex Brink, Rakeem Cato, Kevin Glenn, Tanner Marsh, Brandon Bridge, Darian Durant, Drew Willy, Matthew Shiltz, Johnny Manziel, Antonio Pipkin and Jeff Mathews, to name a few. Adams was their guy.

Adams’ feats were rewarded with a three-year contract extension in January 2020 that featured a $165,000 signing bonus. Controversy briefly erupted after Adams initially decided to opt of his contact when the CFL cancelled the season due to COVID-19, but ultimately he decided not to pursue NFL opportunities and remain under contract with the Alouettes.

Whenever the 2021 season starts, the Als will have plenty to look forward to because, for the first time in a long while, their faith in the man under centre won’t be misplaced. As long as Adams is around, Montreal will be a team that cannot be overlooked.

3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.

35. DB Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders
36. DB Aaron Grymes, B.C. Lions
37. LB Larry Dean, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
38. OL Ucambre Williams, Calgary Stampeders
39. DB Ciante Evans, Montreal Alouettes
40. K/P Justin Medlock, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
41. REC DaVaris Daniels, Toronto Argonauts
42. DT Micah Johnson, B.C. Lions
43. OL Shane Bergman, Calgary Stampeders
44. SAM Don Unamba, Ottawa Redblacks
45. DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
46. DB Tommie Campbell, Toronto Argonauts
47. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
48. REC DeVier Posey, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
49. DT Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DT Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Edmonton Football Team
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions

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Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).