Christian Veilleux becomes first Canadian QB to play for Power Five school in 21 years, leads Penn State to victory

Photo courtesy: Christian Veilleux

A night after a Canadian quarterback made a resounding case to be the signal caller of the future for one CFL club, college football fans have been treated to sneak preview of the next great Canadian passer.

After Penn State starting quarterback Sean Clifford was forced to leave Saturday’s game against Rutgers late in the fourth quarter with an upper-body injury, the task of leading the 6-4 Nittany Lions fell to true freshman Christian Veilleux. The 19-year old native of Ottawa, Ontario did not find the lights of Big Ten competition too bright, easily dispatching the 5-5 Scarlet Knights by a score of 28-0.

While a growing number of Canadians have been plying their trade as passers south of the border in recent years, including current B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke at the University of Ohio and former CFLer Brandon Bridge at the University of South Alabama, Veilleux’s appearance marked the first meaningful minutes from a Canadian quarterback at a Power Five school since Jesse Palmer at the University of Florida in 2000.

Current Calgary Stampeders backup Michael O’Connor also began his career at Penn State, but transferred to the University of British Columbia without having played a game.

Veilleux finished 15-of-24 passing on the afternoon for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while not committing a turnover. He was also credited with 10 carries for 36 yards on the ground.

The proud Canadian notched his first career touchdown pass with an eight-yard rollout to star receiver Jahan Dotson with a minute remaining in the first half. However, the most special moment came on his third score late in the third quarter, when Veilleux found redshirt freshman Malick Meiga wide open for a 67-yard touchdown. It was the first of the career for Meiga, himself a native of Saint-Jerome, Quebec, marking a rare Canadian to Canadian scoring play at the highest level of US college football.

Rounding out the Canadian firsts for Penn State was senior safety and team captain Jonathan Sutherland of Ottawa, who notched his first career interception in the shutout.

Back in 2020, Veilleux made headlines by being the first Canadian quarterback ever invited to the Elite 11 Finals quarterback showcase, a yearly talent competition between the top QB recruits in the US. Elite 11 event alumni include 25 of the 32 current NFL starting quarterbacks, and 12 of the past 13 quarterbacks who have earned the Heisman Trophy.

A four star prospect according to ESPN, Veilleux committed early to Penn State after a lengthy list of NCAA Division I scholarship offers from Power Five conference programs, which included Louisiana State University and Clemson University.

The six-foot-four, 200-pound signal caller played his junior season at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, throwing for 2,006 yards with 29 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He was unable to play as senior due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor’s Note: It was brought to our attention by a reader that the last Canadian quarterback to play in the Power Five was actually Windsor’s Matt Hale, who threw two incomplete passes for Syracuse in 2005. 

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.