“I’ll be honest. I didn’t even want to play football in high school. I wanted to play golf. But that would’ve broke my dad’s heart so I played football and fell in love with the game,” said Harris, bashing the stereotype that every kid in Ohio is born with a Ohio State Buckeyes tattoo on his heart if not his helmet.
Recruited by Edinboro College, a Division II school near Erie, Pa., Harris set school records passing for 11,899 yards and 100 TDs. That got him a cameo with Jacksonville in the NFL in 2010 and an Arena League shot last year. Now he’s looking to become No. 3 on the depth chart in Toronto behind Ricky Ray and Jarious Jackson.
“I plan on filling it,” says Harris, who threw for a record 630 yards in his final game at Edinboro. In his first day as an Argonaut there was an interception, some big oops, but also a nice toss to Jessie Hubbard.
It can all be a bit dizzying this rookie camp stuff: Strange teammates, a new city, new coaches and a new system.
There will be glitches. And, there was swearing, and puzzled looks when someone wiggled when Ray expected them to waggle. “You expect it,” said head coach Scott Milanovich. “It’s harder to be as demanding on these guys because they haven’t had the introduction to the system. They’re doing exactly what the vets will do on Sunday, except that the vets have done it before. They know. Some of these guys it’s the first time they’ve ever waggled. The defensive backs they’ve never covered a waggle so you try to maintain your patience.”
Patience is not something in large supply for those hoping to survive rookie camp. It is short. First cuts come Friday. It is a place where the overlooked, the forgotten, the castoffs and the unlucky get one last chance. It is a place where the unestablished, newcomers such as Feoli-Gudino, begin to test themselves in an unfamiliar world.
“You get a little nervous. This is the CFL and there’s a lot of NFL guys, too ... I felt OK. I think I could’ve done better. I dropped a couple footballs,” said Feoli-Gudino.
Harris knows the feeling. They may be from different worlds. But the game is the same. Both understand they are playing for their livelihood. Their future. “I think a lot of people have a sense of urgency. There’s 80-85 guys here and only so many roster spots. That causes some nervous energy and some personality disputes in practice. But,” said Harris, “that’s healthy. That’s competing.”
There’s every likelihood Feoli-Gudino will make this team, even if its only the practice roster and the No. 3 job at QB is open.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little anxiety,” said Milanovich. “These guys are all fighting for a job. Nothing is guaranteed so there is a level of anxiety and the good players are the ones who are able to manage that and perform.”
Feoli-Gudino was a four-time QUFL all-star at Laval and his 238 catches are second in CIS history. Only 11 players in history have more than his 2,756 career yards.
But on a day like Wednesday, those are just numbers. Now both he and Harris have to prove themselves all over again. “I showed my quickness and skills but there is room for improvement but I’m happy to break the ice today because I’ve been waiting for this day for a year,” said Feoli-Gudino.
More than waiting. Never mind the Xs and Os. Never mind the weight room. The guy wants to make this work so bad he even went out last year an took an advanced English class at university. He went from barely being able to say “hello” to sounding like an advertisement for the Queen’s English.
“I grew up in Montreal but for five years I was in Quebec City and not many people speak English there. I lost most of my English. I know it’s a little weird,” said Feoli-Gudino. “I knew it would help me in meetings and with the coaches. Sometimes they say things so quickly and you can’t afford to miss a beat.”
SOUNDS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
Ricky Ray might not want to hear this.
The guy standing next to him in the backfield at practice Wednesday loved watching him play — when he was a kid.
“I remember as a little kid watching him in the CFL,” said Richard Quittenton, after the University of Toronto quarterback spent his first day as an intern at the Argonauts’ rookie camp Wednesday. “All I can do is take this as an opportunity to learn. It’s more excitement than nerves.”
Quittenton, just 19, was invited to join the Argos as part of a CFL initiative that will see a Canadian college quarterback practice with every club in the league. It’s hoped the move will help develop Canadians who can eventually challenge for a job as a quarterback with a CFL club.
“I thought it was prank when I got the call (from U of T head coach Greg Gary). But then he said he was serious; that they wanted me to come out,” said Quittenton.
First impressions? “It’s a little hard,” said Quittenton. “I put a lot on (passes) just to get it out there. These guys are a lot faster than the guys I’m used to.”
Head coach Scott Milanovich said the experiment can only help everyone involved, although Quittenton’s reps are limited and he will return to U of T this fall. “This kid is probably out there saying, ‘I can throw it as hard as Ray can’ and he probably can,” said Milanovich “It’s a good thing for our league and for the CIS.”