One super substitute

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Matt Dunigan says Casey Printers reminds him of Doug Flutie. Jason Clermont compares him to Michael Vick and Daunte Culpepper.

Wally Buono figures him to be a lot like a young Dunigan but sees more Jeff Garcia in him than anyone else.

And he ought to know best.

After all, it was Buono who watched Garcia springboard to fame in 1995 when the young Californian took the league by storm when subbing for the injured Flutie in Calgary. Approaching the game with a rare combination of flare and fire, the 25-year-old Garcia posted an 8-1 record in Red & White while Flutie's elbow mended in time for the playoffs.

Using the same sort of grit, Printers has done one better, posting a club-record eight straight wins (and no losses) while replacing the hobbled Dave Dickenson.

"Doug got fans excited but when you look at sheer personality and persona, I'd say Casey's closer to Garcia with getting fans involved and all that Hollywood stuff," said Buono, who has seen both youngsters lead their teams to the top of their divisions.

"When Jeff had his coming-out in '95, people were excited and drawn to him. Casey was at a function last night -- he gets on stage and lights it up and gets people excited. People can identify with him. You look around and he has excited the whole country and the B.C. fans."

Never more so than last Saturday night when a sold-out lower-bowl crowd at

B.C. Place was on its feet, saluting another stellar Printers outing that saw the Lions edge Edmonton in overtime.

Like Garcia, Printers leads in the dressing room as he does on the field. A brilliant runner who can keep the opposition off-balance with his ability to buy time and/or bolt downfield, he also throws well on the fly, sees the field clearly and thinks nothing of taking big hits like Garcia. Some figure him to have the talents of a young Warren Moon and the charisma of a Jarome Iginla.

"He's rangy and gets himself out of trouble like Vick does," said Clermont of the league's clear-cut MVP. "He's got better feet than Culpepper. He's that good."

Blessed with the type of humble, engaging personality that helped make Garcia so popular in Calgary, Printers said yesterday he is flattered by all the accolades he's receiving but none of it means a thing.

"I appreciate all the kind comparisons and nice things people have said but I don't try to live up to anybody's comparisons or expectations, except for my own," said the 23-year-old, who'll get a chance tonight to improve on his only shaky performance of the year, which came here against the Stamps.

Since taking over the 1-3 Lions, he's thrown three times as many touchdown passes (28) as he has interceptions (9) and easily leads the league in passing efficiency. With just one year and an option left on a contract that pays him $50,000 (plus starting bonuses) a year, the obvious talk is the 6-ft. 2-in., 208-lb. Texan will bolt to the NFL in 2006.

Truth is Printers and his agent have been thinking long and hard about ensuring he doesn't go south too soon, only to wind up returning like Henry Burris and Dickenson.

Instead, he may play a handful more years in the CFL like his hero, Moon, did, which was what he hinted yesterday when talking about his community endeavours aimed at building the B.C. fan base long-term.

Oddly enough, Printers' role as starter may not be long-term as Dickenson will soon return to the lineup.

While most believe Buono will do as he did in '95 when Garcia gave way to Flutie for the playoffs, some think the coach will keep Printers at the helm.

We'll see then who Printers most reminds everyone of.


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