The first goal of David Siddall’s ALPHA Quarterback Academy isn’t to put young Canadian men on the path to becoming pivots at the professional level.
While that would be a nice byproduct, the 24-year-old is looking to instill something a little more simple and, depending upon your view, more beneficial for society.
“What we need more than that is we need these young guys to grow up and be men in their communities and their families,” Siddall said. “If I coach 100 guys, I’d rather have 100 guys go on and be good fathers, good sons, good students, good employees, good bosses and all that than have one guy go to the CFL.”
Hey, it’s the teacher in him.
“Now, if one of those 100 ends up going to the CFL,” he added, “then that’s awesome.”
Siddall, a St. Paul’s High School teacher, spent the past two seasons as the special assistant to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach. Last year that was Mike Kelly, and the year before that it was Doug Berry.
Siddall also spent plenty of time communicating with a U.S. man named Darin Slack, a self-described “Quarterback Doctor” who trains passers. Siddall, who played the position when he attended St. Paul’s, took that information and created ALPHA, which conducted its inaugural sessions on Monday and Tuesday at St. Paul’s.
As far as Siddall knows, his quarterback academy is the first of its kind in Manitoba.
Twelve high school and minor-league quarterbacks between the ages of 13 and 17 spent eight hours both days soaking up everything they could about playing under centre. It included several hours of classroom time, and they got additional instruction from Manitoba Bisons quarterback Khaleal Williams and former Winnipeg Rifles pivot Joey Ingrilli.
Siddall was thrilled with what he saw over the course of 48 hours.
“The guys got so much better,” he said. “It’s awesome that the guys would give up their time on spring break and come in on days when they could be sleeping in or eating junk food in front of the TV.”
Kingsley Khamphavong attends Elmwood High School and is making the switch from receiver to quarterback to take a run at the team’s vacant No. 1 position this fall. Khamphavong felt that he is “a lot better” quarterback after 16 hours of intense instruction.
“My throws got crisp,” he said. “I can see the results in my spirals and everything. So it was perfect. I learned all the drops, the handoffs for the run game.”
The classroom time was beneficial as well, the Grade 10 student said. “They were really specific on reading the defence. It was good. I learned a lot.”
Siddall said acquiring the qualities that make a good quarterback will also help make a good man later in life.
“The first thing we talked about is, ‘What’s your calling as a quarterback?’ ” Siddall said. “You want to set a good example, you want to sacrifice for your teammates and just be great in every sense of the word.
“And just let that permeate through not only your field, but in your whole life.”
As for one of them actually stepping onto a CFL field one day, Siddall believes there’s no reason why it can’t happen. The last Canadian to start a CFL contest was Larry Jusdanis in 1995, and the Toronto Argonauts made news earlier this month when they signed former Queen’s University quarterback Danny Brannagan to a three-year contract.
Siddall noted you don’t have to be a strapping 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds to fling the pigskin, either. It’s all about the training.
“You look at some of the American guys that are playing in the CFL,” said Siddall, who has also coached football at St. Paul’s. “It’s not their physicality that makes them good. You look at even a guy like Kevin Glenn, who’s been in the league for quite a few years. Physically, he’s nothing special.
“He’s a smaller guy, not that strong, but it’s just those other things that have come with the training that he’s good at. Smart guy, quick release, all these types of things.”
Siddall hopes to make the ALPHA training sessions at least an annual event, and his students will be able to access the academy’s website for information whenever they need it. He hopes coaches will take a peek too.
“I’m going to keep that updated so it’s something that the guys can keep going to even when they get into their season,” he said. “If things start to slip up with their mechanics or anything like that, they’ll just always have a resource to go to.”