CALGARY - Off the field, Drew Tate is a laid-back, easy-going guy who doesn’t get worked up about much of anything.
On the field, the 27-year-old Texan is a fiery competitor but calm under pressure.
So when asked about how excited he is to be taking over the starting quarterback’s job with the Calgary Stampeders, Tate deferred his best answer to Friday right before kickoff against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Tate has waited through five CFL seasons to get a chance at being the No. 1 man, and now it’s here.
The Iowa product doesn’t plan on giving Henry Burris his job back due to his own poor performance.
“My mentality is when I get on that field, I’m not coming off,” Tate said. “The only way it happens is the coach grabs me and pulls me off or they take my helmet away. I don’t want to come off the field.”
Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel is making this bold move with three weeks remaining in the CFL season to see if he can kickstart a team that has struggled offensively for two months.
When the offence struggles, usually it’s the quarterback at the centre of it, and Burris has had more than his share of rough outings during a 2-5 run.
“During the course of the last seven games, Henry has become a bit hesitant in his play,” Hufnagel said in a carefully prepared statement that he read following Monday’s practice. “That’s not who he is as a quarterback. I believe allowing him to catch his breath and see the game from a different perspective will help. I’m thankful to have the depth at the quarterback position to allow me to make this decision.”
While Hufnagel only wanted to talk about this week, Stampeders offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson made it clear that once Tate is given his chance, it won’t be a small window.
Tate will be the man the rest of the season if he performs, and this isn’t about sending a message to Burris.
“We’re not making a change to play musical chairs,” Dickenson said. “We’re making the change to be better as a team. If Drew is playing well, Drew is playing.
“I don’t want Drew looking over his shoulder.”
In three seasons as Burris’ backup (following two years on the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster), Tate has a career passer rating of 121.0.
But it wasn’t until Friday that he proved he could perform in meaningful action. With the Stamps down 19 points at half-time, thanks in large part to a pick-six thrown by Burris, Tate led them back to take the lead in the fourth quarter with two TD passes and positive yardage nearly every time he touched the ball.
The offence instantly performed better with Tate in control.
Burris now has to watch and wait to see if he gets another chance with the Stampeders.
“If he’s the guy from here on out … I’m going to support him,” Burris said. “He’s a good friend of mine, and hopefully, he does a good job. It’s my role now and of course I’m going to be bitter.
“When you are used to playing, you want to be in there. Right now, I’m not in that position so I will support my team and do what I can to make sure we get wins.”
The Stamps went through a similar situation a month ago when longtime starting running back Joffrey Reynolds was replaced by Jon Cornish.
Tate is doing his best to ignore the fact he’s taking over from a seven-year starter and just concentrate on preparation for Friday’s game.
“In my mind, it has nothing to do with replacing Hank, or Hank not playing well,” Tate said. “It has to do with me getting ready and playing my best. You don’t need to make things more complicated than they already are.”
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