One play away from No. 1.
It’s something that just doesn’t happen in professional football. You just don’t go to training camp as a quarterback battling for a chance to make few hundred bucks a week on the practice roster and end up one play away from being No. 1.
OK. There was Ricky Ray.
But he came in as No. 3 on the depth chart, won the backup job and took over as starter when Jason Maas was injured. Ray ended up quarterbacking the Edmonton Eskimos to the 2002 Grey Cup game in his rookie season.
“Jonathan Crompton was No. 5 on the depth chart when he came to training camp,” revealed Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed Monday.
“We felt he had the potential to move up, but we weren’t sure how high.”
When Crompton showed up for the first practice of the regular season for the Eskimos, he found out he was No. 2 to starter Mike Reilly.
“It’s an extremely big opportunity,” said Reed.
Crompton, who at first reading appears to have the charisma of a goal post, didn’t want to acknowledge the opportunity he’s ended up with here when surrounded for his first Eskimos media scrum prior to practice yesterday.
“It’s not about that, it’s about the team,” he said several times and several different ways as interviewers tried to get him to at lest acknowledge his special situation.
Reed helped out with that.
“He really is one play away,” he said of this being his football team at some stage of this season if Reilly should get hurt.
That’s a very scary situation for a football fan already a little queasy about having a starting quarterback who has only started two games in his career.
“We were in a situation here where we had to look at No. 2 as No. 1,” said Reed.
“We had to look big picture.”
The University of Tennessee Volunteers product took a long time to decide to come to Edmonton. He wasn’t signed until May 14.
It wasn’t the greatest job offer in the world. The Eskimos were honest with him. Matt Nichols and Reilly would compete for No. 1 and No. 2. About-to-turn 40-year-old Kerry Joseph would carry the clipboard and dress as No. 3. And Jacory Harris and Crompton would battle for No. 4, the job Harris now has on the practice roster.
It all changed when Nichols suffered his season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of his first game back since his horrific foot-turned-the-wrong-way injury in the Eastern semifinal crossover game.
But Crompton won his way up the depth chart by out-playing Harris and vaulted over Joseph into No. 2 because … well, he’s not about to turn 40. He’s 27.
Reed said no matter what, Joseph was going to be No. 3 in his final year here.
“The future of the franchise is important. I think you have to keep one eye on the immediate and one eye on the future.”
Reed didn’t tell Crompton he was going to start the season as back-up to Reilly until after he had a chance to sit down with Joseph.
“Kerry is a pro’s pro,” said Reed of the veteran understanding and continuing to buy in to his expected role, when it was going to be Nichols and Reilly, of mentoring the young QBs.
Reed said Crompton showed consistency, a big arm and had the best completion percentage of any quarterback in camp.
You never know how it’s going to go.
“It’s a different game. It’s a different ball. It’s a different field. It’s different philosophies.”
Crompton had a secret tutor.
When the QB from the same school as Peyton Manning was asked about another alumni from the Vols — CFL great Condredge Holloway — he suddenly became quotable.
“He was my mentor. He’s a real good friend,” he said of the ex-Ottawa Rough Rider who works for the Vols as assistant athletic director.
“He told me everything I needed to know about playing quarterback up here.”
Crompton, it turned out, had the job before the second pre-season game in B.C. After Reilly played into the third quarter, Crompton went in for the rest of the way.
He ended up 9-for-12 for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the pre-season.
“It’s been fun. It’s been good,” he said.
It’s been almost unprecedented, is what it’s been.
Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones