Bodog installing Riders’ QB Cody Fajardo as favourite to win 2021 CFL MOP ‘a big deal’

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella

The oddsmakers at Bodog created excitement for Cody Fajardo’s family and fans around North America.

Canada’s top sportsbook installed the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback as the favourite to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2021. The news quickly travelled around the nation and across the border into the United States.

“It’s cool to know that there’s a lasting impression from one season. It was a big deal in the Fajardo family, I’ll tell you that much, but in terms of my household, it wasn’t that big of a deal because it’s business as usual,” Fajardo said on a videoconference.

“I know that my family was excited when they read about it. For me, it doesn’t change anything in terms of my operation. That just adds some fuel to the fire for me, I want to prove some people right in whoever made that betting thing.”

Calgary Stampeders gunslinger Bo Levi Mitchell, B.C. Lions franchise QB Michael Reilly, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats playmaker Brandon Banks — the reigning CFL MOP — all checked in behind Fajardo on the odds list. Edmonton Elks passer Trevor Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers veteran Zach Collaros, Ticats pivot Jeremiah Masoli, and Montreal Alouettes signal caller Vernon Adams Jr. weren’t included — yet.

“Every year I want to try and win the MOP, that’s going to be my goal moving forward,” Fajardo said. “It’s not like I’m going to take a year off or I’m going to try super hard because I’m the favourite, it’s going to be the same exact thing from year to year.”

Fajardo was named the West Division MOP and a CFL all-star in 2019 after throwing for a league-best 4,302 yards while completing over 71 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions. The dual-threat pivot used his legs for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns on 107 rushing attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

“I’m excited to finally get recognized as one of the top guys in the league and that feels good to know what your hard work has been there, but I just don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Fajardo said.

“A lot of quarterbacks you see that success early and then you get lackadaisical I think or you take some things for granted. I definitely haven’t done that over the last two years. I want to go earn that starting position for the Saskatchewan Roughriders starting day one of camp.”

The charismatic QB has raised expectations for himself and his team following a 13-5 campaign, which earned the Riders first place after the regular season in the West Division. He led the Green and White to the franchise’s highest single-season win total since 1970. Although, one season does not a career make and Fajardo has been focused on longevity plus proving the doubters wrong.

“Everybody has an opinion and I’m one of those guys that doesn’t really get affected by too much of people’s opinions, whether it’s good or bad. You have to stay even-keeled if you’re a quarterback, you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” Fajardo said.

“That’s something I learned from Ricky Ray, he was probably one of the best to do it and you would never have known talking to Ricky that he was a four-time Grey Cup champion and he had all these accolades and all these records just because he stayed so even-keeled.”

The 29-year-old Fajardo wants to draw on lessons learned from the surefire Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback. Saskatchewan’s unquestioned starting QB entering the season won’t be reading about himself or listening to the hype in the prairie province and allow it to go to his head.

“That’s the last thing I want to do. When you guys write those articles, I don’t really read many of them — sorry, it’s all in fun. I’m just here to make the Saskatchewan Roughriders a better team and hopefully a contender to win the Grey Cup in 2021,” Fajardo said.

“I’m coming in trying to earn a roster spot as I have my entire CFL career. It’s one of those things that has made me who I am today, working into training camp and understanding that nothing is given to you. You have to work for your spot, that’s just been my mentality my entire life.”

That mindset could help Fajardo turn projections into pay dirt for bettors and the Riders.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.