Stamps campin' at the bit

Drew Tate gets loose at McMahon Stadium during the Calgary Stampeders' rookie camp Friday. (Lyle...

Drew Tate gets loose at McMahon Stadium during the Calgary Stampeders' rookie camp Friday. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency)

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:53 AM ET

CALGARY - The No. 4 jersey is starting to pop up a bit more around town.

Even away from Calgary, such as the tour Saturday to Medicine Hat, he’s getting recognized as the leader of the Calgary Stampeders.

Drew Tate also managed to squeeze in a radio interview Saturday with a Toronto station.

Suddenly, his name is known throughout the CFL.

Being a starting quarterback will do that to you.

When the laid-back Texan stops to think about it, comparing where he was a year ago at this time and right now is night and day.

All it took was one step up on the depth chart.

“I can’t even compare it,” Tate said. “It’s very exciting. Last year, I was trying to get better …”

“Having had started, it’s very exciting.

“This is what you think about all off-season — and finally, it’s here. I’m just ready to go.”

Sunday is the day Tate’s been preparing for since

Nov. 13, 2011, when the Stampeders were unceremoniously dumped by the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL’s West Division semifinal.

Tate didn’t have it that day. He wasn’t moving the Stampeders with efficiency, and at one point, he suddenly dropped the football when no one was near him. The Eskimos picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.

Henry Burris entered the game in relief but couldn’t lead the comeback. The Burris era officially came to an end a few weeks before that, when Tate supplanted him as the starter and went on a three-game winning streak, but the playoff loss — with Burris failing to provide a magical rally — sealed the changing of the guard.

Burris was eventually traded, and Tate was given a restructured contract at the same time.

Now, this is Tate’s team, and when he takes the field for the first day of 2012 training camp, the offence will be moulded for him.

 

A certain amount of pressure comes along with being the man, but the 26-year-old doesn’t have the personality of a panicker.

That’s good. There should be enough people picking the Stampeders to do something great this season, seeing how Tate and running back Jon Cornish finished out the 2011 regular season.

“I always put pressure on myself to be good —

don’t see it being any more now,” Tate said. “The expectations are just different.”

Certainly they are, just as camp will be much different.

During last year’s pre-season, Tate suffered a dislocated shoulder against the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium, an injury that kept him out for a little more than a month.

As the starter now, an injury like that would be much more devastating — to both the team and to Tate personally.

Asked what Tate’s biggest challenge this season would be, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel didn’t talk about arm strength, reading defences or handling the media.

It was durability.

“The fact he will be on the field for 18 games, playing 60 minutes,” Hufnagel said. “Drew hasn’t had to do that.

“How will his physical and mental aspects handle that?”

Tate isn’t considering himself home-free for the starting job just yet, though.

He feels he needs to win the position away from veteran Kevin Glenn (acquired for Burris in an off-season trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats), sophomore Brad Sinopoli and rookie Bo Levi Mitchell.

Still, there is a feeling this is his team — and how the season plays out will depend largely on him.

“Every year, you have changes,” Tate said. “Every year, there is a different mentality.

“You have different challenges, and there is change with players and coaches. Every thing changes yearly.

“This is a new year so it’s going to be different,” Tate added.

“There is a new starting quarterback, a new centre (still undecided) and a new offensive line coach (in Mike Gibson).

“You have to trust it, accept it and just get better.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNIanBusby


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