Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo felt extra energy inside the province’s green jewel on Saturday.
It was the first time Riders fans were allowed to attend practice at Mosaic Stadium since training camp started on July 10. There were approximately 100 fans in the stands despite a dreary day in the Queen City.
“You could tell a lot of guys had some juice, especially as you get through a week of training camp, there was a lot more juice in practice. To complete a ball or someone makes a good play and to hear fans cheering again — it’s pretty special,” Fajardo said.
“Just bouncing around and guys know when fans are here that they don’t want to get beat, or receivers don’t want to drop balls, or a quarterback you don’t want to make the wrong reads. Just a little bit more added pressure to make it a little bit more game-like.”
Fajardo spotted a couple No. 7 jerseys in the seats. Seeing fans live and in-person in a stadium is something the franchise QB didn’t think he’d experience again six or seven months ago during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to do everything I can in my power to bring them a lot of excitement in 2021, hopefully a lot of points as well, and a lot of victories because I know a lot of people have been missing it,” Fajardo said.
“Every time I go on social media, I see something that’s about the excitement of August 6. That’s what you want to be a part of and that’s part of the reason I love this community and love playing for this football team so much because of how much passion the fans have here.”
One of Fajardo’s targets, Regina native Mitchell Picton had family members in the stands, including his Hec Crighton Trophy-winning cousin, Noah Picton. The two played together at the University of Regina and the record-setting U Sports passer helped the Canadian receiver be selected in the fifth round, 37th overall during the 2017 CFL Draft.
“It’s been a long haul with COVID and growing up here, I understand how much this team means to this community,” Picton said. “I’m sure that the fans were fired up to come out and watch some football and it’s also pretty great for us as well. Stands have been empty thus far in camp and hearing a couple cheers, it was nice.”
At the end of the session, head coach Craig Dickenson had the players and fellow coaches acknowledge the fans by saluting the people who traveled to the stadium. The bench boss wanted to ensure the Roughriders faithful knows the team cares about them and appreciates their fanatical fandom.
“When you think of the Riders, you think of Rider Nation, and when you think of Rider Nation, you think of the fans,” Dickenson said. “You could feel their energy, it felt like real football once again.”