Cody Fajardo will always be known as the quarterback who plays with a sprinkle of Jesus, but sometimes a sprinkle just isn’t enough.
“A dollop of Jesus for me,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback laughed Sunday after the biggest win of his CFL career, a 33-30 overtime thriller against the Calgary Stampeders in the West Semi-Final where he needed more than his standard amount of divine assistance.
“If you’d have told me going into this game that I had thrown four picks and we would’ve won, I would’ve told you you’re psychotic.”
If not for the victory, there is no doubt that Sunday’s game would have been one Fajardo would have liked to forget. He finished 22-of-33 for 189 yards, one touchdown and four bad interceptions while his offence floundered for long stretches, but added 89 yards and a score on the ground. Somehow despite it all, the Riders and their quarterback still pulled things together when it mattered, making the eyesore stat-line just fine with Fajardo.
“You lose a game and you throw four picks, that’s going to be a nightmare, that’s going to be some mental problems for me, but you find a way to win,” acknowledged the quarterback, who has been vocal about the effects of social media criticism this season.
“Guys were coming up to me and saying: ‘We win this game, nobody remembers the picks.’ And I said: ‘Well, they probably remember them, but winning the game definitely means more than what the statistics are,'” Fajardo said.
“I text my family after the game: ‘Screw the statistics.’ It’s all about the double-you and that’s my mentality all year is I could care less as long as we find a way to win a game.”
That came about in the most unlikely of fashions. After Fajardo’s fourth pick of the game helped put the Stampeders up by four points late in the fourth, the Riders put together a drive for the ages. Marching 75 yards in nine plays, Fajardo completed six straight passes and powered it in himself to take a late lead. Calgary was able to send things to overtime with a late field goal, but the Riders eventually prevailed on a Brett Lauther walk-off in the second extra frame.
Deeply religious, Fajardo prayed for some assistance before that pivotal drive and believes he got it, but also had something else to lean on.
“I have some secret sauce in terms of a sentence that I like to tell myself, which I’ve never told anybody and I won’t tell you guys today, I’ll keep you on the cliffhanger. It helps pull me through those tough times and I really drove on that tonight,” he explained.
“It really helped me pull it through on that last drive, just going out there and ripping it confidently knowing those guys had my back — it’s one of those special things.”
When pressed further on just what such a motivational phrase might be, Fajardo stayed mum.
“I wish I could tell you guys, it’s out there, it’s different. Quite honestly, it’s not me, but it’s one of those things that pushes me through it. I’ve been one of the guys who came back in a lot of fourth quarter wins and it’s something that stuck with me,” he teased.
“Maybe one day when I retire, I’ll tell you guys, but I can’t let everybody else know because then it’s not as good.”
A ceremonial reveal at Fajardo’s hypothetical future Plaza of Honour enshrinement was suggested by those assembled, and that may be one step closer to a reality with his first playoff victory as a starter now in hand.
Four picks or no picks, Fajardo helped to keep Saskatchewan’s Grey Cup hopes alive and that will continue to endear him to the fanbase. Desperate prayers and salacious mantra’s aside, he knows it is really his teammates who made that win a reality.
“What we do best in that room is we rally together. We have a lot of confidence in each other and we played in a lot of close games to know that we had a chance throughout the entire game, even after giving the defence so many short fields early on throwing picks,” Fajardo praised.
“This team’s resilient and they want it. Like I told you guys before this game, we want to play for the guy next to us. A lot of guys told me good game and it doesn’t feel like a good game, but any time you win a playoff game and especially my first, I’ll take it.”