Riders’ brass sees potential for first-time fatherhood to benefit Cody Fajardo on the field

Photo courtesy: CFL

Running a professional football team is as much about managing the human element as it is conceiving the perfect scheme, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t believe their soon-to-be sleep deprived starting quarterback will need any special assistance after doing some successful conceiving of his own.

Cody Fajardo and his wife Laura are expecting their first child, a baby boy due sometime around Labour Day. New fatherhood will bring added responsibilities, as well as some very long nights at an important juncture of the season. However, head coach Craig Dickenson has no doubt the face of the franchise will handle it all with grace — just so long as he doesn’t come to his coach for any child-rearing tips.

“I’m the last person to give anybody advice when it comes to children. I can’t even keep a dog happy for a few days,” Dickenson joked. “I have no children, never been married so I’ll defer to [general manager Jeremy O’Day] who’s raised three kids successfully.”

“We care about our players, regardless of circumstance. He’s going to have more on his plate as a result of welcoming a child into the fold, but hopefully it just gives him that much more motivation to do a good job and to do what he needs to do to provide for that family.”

In a recent radio interview, Fajardo alluded to exactly that, saying his motivation for the 2022 season was to get his infant son a baby picture in the iconic Grey Cup chalice.

More than simply added incentive to win a championship at home, the presence of a young family can be a powerful grounding force for a player and often a welcome distraction from the pressure of playing in Regina, as the veteran father O’Day knows well.

“The nice part about it, at least for me, was you had the normal stressors of playing football in the ups and downs of a season, but every time you went home, you were just dad,” O’Day explained.

“It’ll be a great time for them, he’ll enjoy every minute and they’re going to be great parents. There’s a balance there, you definitely have to make sure that you’re getting the amount of sleep that you can, but I think the joy that the little one will bring to you will actually get your mind off of football a little bit, which sometimes in Saskatchewan can be a good thing.”

Fajardo has been vocal about the effects of the public criticism that comes with being the face of the Riders on his psyche, particularly during lonely moments. Even with the added scrutiny of the Grey Cup being in Regina and an expiring contract, diaper changes and bottle feeding provide a very effective distraction from all the unimportant outside noise.

No matter how welcome an escape it is, a seasoned professional like Fajardo isn’t likely to be derelict in his duties because of baby bliss either. Finding a balance between work and home life will be critical and while he doesn’t know much about children, Dickenson suspects that the demands of football will benefit Fajardo the father in its own way as well.

“I think he’ll look forward to the road games a little bit more. That’s what all the other fathers tell me, because they can finally get a good night’s sleep when they get on the road,” Dickenson chuckled. “It’s real exciting times for Cody and we’re thrilled for him. We will support him every way, shape and form that we can, just like we did last year.”

No word yet on whether that support will include scrubbing dirty diaper stains out of the Grey Cup before hopefully filling it with champagne.

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.