VANCOUVER - Kyle Quinlan's stellar season has one major blemish.
A mark that easily could have dismantled his own season and ruined his McMaster Marauders teammates' chance at a national championship.
Quinlan's spectacular year, one where the fourth year quarterback threw for 1,708 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season, was almost cut short well before the Vanier Cup. The Marauders will play the Laval Roug et Or Friday for the CIS football championship.
Following a Sept. 10 loss to the Western Ontario Mustangs, Quinlan was charged with one count of assault and two counts of assault on a police officer in connection with an incident at the McMaster campus bar TwelveEighty.
Hamilton police said at the time of the incident plain clothes officers, on campus for frosh week activities, responded to an incident going on at the bar. Quinlan had teammates at the bar with him, but the star QB was the only one suspended. The matter has still not been settled in the courts.
"I have a locker room of 100 people, 80 players and 20 coaches. None of us are perfect, we have all made mistakes," McMaster coach Stefan Ptaszek said. "There is no shame is getting knocked down as long as you get up every time. Kyle would have only let me down if he hadn't responded the way he responded."
Quinlan was suspended under the athletics' code of conduct and missed three games. The school-imposed suspension dashed any hopes the South Woodslee, Ont., native had of winning any individual awards, but did not take away the chance of winning the biggest trophy in the game.
"It is privilege to play this game and as soon as it is taken away, you realize how much it really means to you and you want to make sure it is never taken away again," Quinlan said. "I think an added passion I have had since the suspension to make sure I can string the season along as long as possible."
Quinlan practiced with the team through his suspension, but did not suit up on Saturdays. Even though it was unclear how much time he would miss, his teammates stuck by him.
"We never lost faith in Kyle, it was more like a learning experience and that the game could be taken away from us at any time," said OUA MVP Mike DiCorce, who stepped in as the team's top offensive threat in Quinlan's absence. "We were happy knowing that Kyle was confident enough to come back and happy to be back.
"Knowing he was our leader since the first day he stepped foot on campus, it was easy to welcome him back."
Since returning on Oct. 6, Quinlan hasn't lost a game, leading McMaster to six straight wins, while throwing for 1,911 yards and 19 touchdowns. But even with his incredible numbers, a victory on Friday night may be the only thing that can make people remember his on the field actions, rather than the actions off it.
"I think people put a blemish on the season. I think no matter the result of this (game) anyone who sees it as a blemish coming in will see it as a blemish going out. I don't think a win in this will change that," Quinlan admitted.