Duelling QBs highlight strong Canadian contingent at 2023 FCS Bowl

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photos: Liz Thomson/Minnesota Morris Athletics | AP/Stew Milne)

A pair of under-the-radar Canadian quarterbacks will be among nine players from north of the border participating in the FCS Bowl college football all-star game this weekend.

Toronto’s Marcus Reeb will be one of five pivots representing the National team when players report to Daytona Beach, Fla. on Friday. At the same time, Montreal’s Jack Zergiotis will represent the American team.

Reeb began his collegiate career at Mississippi Valley State University but saw no action in his first two seasons, eventually transferring to Carleton in 2019. He fared no better there and eventually settled at the University of Minnesota Morris, a Division III program, in the spring of 2021.

The six-foot, 200-pound dual-threat passer has since suited up in 31 games for the Cougars, completing 423-of-740 attempts (57.1 percent) for 5,102 yards, 38 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also rushed 242 times for 803 yards and 14 majors, earning second-team all-Upper Midwest Athletic Conference honours in each of the past three seasons.

Zergiotis was a two-star recruit coming out of John Abbott College, originally committing to the University of Connecticut. He played in ten games for the Huskies as a true freshman, completing 150-of-260 passes for 1,782 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions after beating out fellow Canadian Mike Beaudry for the starting job in 2019.

UConn did not play in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and Zergiotis struggled in 2021, completing 38-of-86 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions. He played just three games before entering the transfer portal, moving to Merrimack College in the FCS in 2022. The six-foot-two, 225-pound passer made three starts in five appearances, going 52-of-106 passing for 667 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.

Zergiotis elected to transfer a second time ahead of the 2023 season, announcing his commitment to the University of British Columbia in March. However, the journeyman quarterback was never able to join the team due to an eligibility issue and the Thunderbirds went on a Vanier Cup run without him, losing 16-9 to the Montreal Carabins. He will now attempt to make the jump to the professional level after sitting out a year.

The two signal-callers will be joined in the game by seven fellow CFL Draft prospects in offensive linemen Taylor Burns, Patrick Lavoie, and Cooper Hamilton, defensive end Tyson Hergott, defensive backs Dawson Pierre and Dawson Marchant, and running back Christopher John.

Photo courtesy: Tiffany Luke/Waterloo Athletics

Hergott is the highest-profile attendee, coming off an exceptional season at the University of Waterloo in which he was named a first-team All-Canadian and received the OUA’s nomination for the J.P. Metras Trophy as Canada’s top down lineman. In nine games played for the Warriors, he amassed 53 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, three batted passes and an interception to establish himself as the country’s most feared pass rusher.

The six-foot-three, 259-pound end was out of action for two full seasons due to the COVID pandemic and an Achilles tear suffered in 2021, but has since worked himself into the early-round conversation for the 2023 CFL Draft. In 23 career games, the Waterloo native has posted 89 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, five forced fumbles, six batted passes, an interception, and a blocked kick.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the game will feature some of the OUA’s finest offensive linemen. Burns, a native of Riverview, N.B., has made 27 career starts for McMaster University, mostly at guard, and was named first-team all-conference in 2021. Laurier’s Cooper Hamilton, who hails from Innisfil, Ont., has been a second-team selection at tackle in each of the last two seasons, while Patrick Lavoie from Gatineau, Que. received the same honour as Carleton’s bookend in 2023.

Pierre has been a defensive standout for Concordia in each of the past two seasons, earning RSEQ all-star honours at safety in 2022. In 23 career games for the Stingers, the six-foot-two, 212-pound native of Longueuil, Que. has made 81 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and three interceptions.

Marchant began his collegiate career at Simon Fraser University, registering 27 tackles, eight pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 10 games in 2019. After playing the 2021 season with the Langley Rams and helping the team win a CJFL national championship, he returned to the NCAA Division II ranks with Northwestern Oklahoma State last season. In 21 games at cornerback, the Surrey, B.C. product has recorded 60 tackles, two tackles for loss, five pass breakups, an interception, and a blocked kick.

John was part of a backfield committee for the University of Windsor that helped power them to their first home playoff win since 1975, carrying 62 times for 272 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season. In 16 games over four seasons with the Lancers, the Toronto-born ball-carrier has rushed 133 times for 614 yards and seven majors.

First played in 2014, the FCS Bowl provides opportunities for draft-eligible players coming from sub-FBS level schools — including those from the FCS, Division II, Division III, NAIA, and U Sports — to perform in an all-star game setting for NFL and CFL scouts. The game has traditionally featured a couple of Canadian players but has taken on an added importance this year with new NFL regulations limiting the types of all-star events that team scouts can attend in an official capacity.

Select players will also participate in a combine event on the morning of Friday, December 8 with the top 24 performers earning an invitation to the larger Tropical Bowl event in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday, January 20.

Practices are slated to begin on Friday evening with the game scheduled for 11:00 a.m. EST on Sunday, December 10 at Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium. Canadian fans can view the contest via a pay-per-view live stream on All America TV.

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.