B.C.'s green redhead

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

The last red-headed quarterback Wally Buono helped groom went on to much greener pastures in the NFL.

No one knows whether Travis Lulay is even capable of following in the footsteps of Jeff Garcia, but what is known is that this no-name will start against the Argos Friday night.

In time, we may look back at this occasion as the start of something special for Lulay, who conducts himself in a manner very reminiscent of Garcia's days in Calgary.

Unlike many head coaches, Buono believes in giving every available signal caller at his disposal much-needed reps in practice, not just mental but physical.

That philosophy, among others, is what separates Buono from many of his peers.

Through his association with Marv Levy and later Roy Shivers, Buono understood the importance of identifying players he felt were best suited to his system and to three-down football.

It's why Buono has had success in taking an unknown such as Garcia, such as Casey Printers, and helping them turn heads and earn a pretty penny in the process.

Lulay now has that chance, but how long it lasts and how effective he'll be can't be answered.

By his own admission, Lulay has appeared in what amounts to roughly five quarters since joining B.C. last season.

During his time in NFL Europa, Lulay made eight starts.

He has auditioned with the NFL's Seahawks, which allowed Lulay to learn under Matt Hasselbeck and got to pick the brains of Drew Brees and Mark Brunell when Lulay had a cup of coffee with New Orleans.

Buono and his staff aren't about to change B.C.'s playbook in the wake of the team's change at quarterback, doing what any team does by going with a package that fits the player under centre.

"The only difference now is that I'm preparing with the knowledge of being ready to go from the first snap,'' Lulay said on the eve of his first CFL start.

"My mindset is that I'm ready to go."

Lulay starts because Printers can't go, a victim of leg injuries that has made the one-time CFL MVP into a third-stringer, at least for Friday night against the host Argos.

Jarious Jackson, whose deep ball torched the Argos last season, will dress as the backup on B.C.'s depth chart, leaving the stage for Lulay.

Montana State is where Lulay forged his name into the NCAA's books, ending a collegiate career that featured a passing total in excess of 10,000 yards and a rushing yardage eclipsing 1,000, thus becoming one of five quarterbacks to accomplish the double.

He's listed at 6-foot-2, weighs in at 216 pounds and by all accounts can make all the necessary throws required by a quarterback at any level.

Lulay says he's more than willing to use his athleticism when a play breaks down or when he gets flushed out of the pocket and has to use his legs.

"I pride myself on being mentally sharp,'' Lulay added. "If anyone has a question, when the game gets fast, I can be that calming presence."

Lulay did draw interest from the Argos when Jim Barker was assembling his roster and left no stone unturned in finding a quarterback, ultimately going with Cleo Lemon as his starter.

Buono wasn't about to venture into any tampering areas, but he did provide an insight into his philosophy.

"You go out and find your own guys,'' Buono said.

"We don't want other people's rejects. Guys unfortunately go for the safe player, but the safe player doesn't really give you the ability to get much better.

"The guys we get, we live and die with them. At the end of the day, the young guy who hasn't been given the opportunity is untapped potential.

"The guy who has been given the opportunity and can't do it, it's like going out at night and waiting for that perfect girl but she never shows up. And you know why? She's not there. We call those players coach killers, a player with great potential but never materializes. They usually get coaches fired."

Buono has done too much for his legacy to be tainted if Lulay lays an egg.

But for Lulay, Friday looms as a start to build a reputation.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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