Shooting Star

PAUL FRIESEN, HOME TURF

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Move over, Jack Jacobs and Matt Dunigan. Don Jonas and Tom Clements, you're next.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn is leaving some pretty impressive names in his wake as he climbs the ladder in the franchise record book.

With a CFL-leading 2,767 passing yards this season, No. 5 has climbed to No. 6 on the club's all-time list. At his current pace, Glenn will amass a club record 5,500 yards in 2007, leaving him just shy of Clements on the all-time yardage list.

His numbers over the first half of the season -- a sparkling 69.4% completion rate, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions -- leave him ranked No. 1 among full-time, CFL passers.

Last weekend in Regina, Saskatchewan GM Eric Tillman called Glenn the leading candidate for the CFL Most Outstanding Player Award.

So how did Glenn rise from relative obscurity his first six years in the CFL to one of the top pivots in the loop?

Today Home Turf takes a look at the coming-of-age of a 28-year-old who says his best football is still to come.

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There was something on the video tape that caught Danny Barrett's eye.

The college quarterback he was watching was a bit smallish, wasn't a particularly gifted runner and didn't have the strongest arm he'd ever seen -- but he could play.

"I remember this quarterback firing the ball very nicely, with a quick release," Barrett told Home Turf.

Then an assistant coach with the CFL's B.C. Lions, Barrett, himself a former CFL quarterback, put the tape aside. But he didn't forget about the player on it: someone named Kevin Glenn, playing for the Illinois State Redbirds, a team that threw the ball as if they played in Canada.

During that 2000-01 off-season, Barrett would take over as head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he passed the tape along to his GM, Roy Shivers.

Next came a recommendation from former CFL running back Walter Bender.

"I know a quarterback you guys could use," Barrett recalled hearing. "So Kevin was on our neg list."

That, in a nutshell, is how the seeds of Glenn's CFL career were planted.

Saskatchewan signed Glenn for the '01 season, and the 5-foot-10 signal-caller, who'd helped put Illinois State football on the map, embarked on a pro career.

But the foundation for the passer we see today had already been laid, at least in part.

Unlike some quarterbacks who start at other positions, Glenn, who grew up in Detroit, has been a passer since he was 12. Making decisions with and throwing the ball is engrained in his mentality.

But going into high school he reached a crossroads that nearly saw him give up the game.

"I actually didn't have any desire to play football going into high school," Glenn said. "It was just going to be basketball and baseball. And I got convinced by my father and the athletic director to go out and play football, because they'd seen me play before."

That's when Glenn got his first look at the Canadian game, as his school would play one game a year north of the border. That he would later take a scholarship at Illinois State University was another key in his development as a pure passer.

Just like in high school, Glenn was thrown into the fray as a starter his freshman year in college.

"I got a chance to play right away, and that gave me a chance to play professionally, because I got so much experience under my belt," he said. "One game my freshman year I might have thrown the ball, like, 63 times. I haven't done that since. I set 25 or 26 school records. I was part of the first team ever to take Illinois State to a playoff berth in 1-AA. We did a lot of good things."

When Glenn turned pro, the trend of playing right away continued: he was thrown into the CFL fray as a rookie, starting seven games.

His first start was a victory in Toronto, with his family in the stands. Overall, though, things didn't come easily, as Glenn completed less than half his passes, throwing for just two touchdowns and nine interceptions.

"It was a rough one," Glenn acknowledged. "Learning a scheme and learning how the Canadian game worked at a professional level. You kind of got a taste of it in college, where it was your job, kind of, 'cause you were on scholarship. But this is what you wanted to do in life. This is how you made your money. This is how you eat. It was something you had to get used to."

Those early years, Glenn credits Barrett for showing him the way: how to handle the game, the media, contracts, dealing with GMs -- the whole nine yards.

His second and third years with the Riders, Glenn played less than he did as a rookie, and the results were mixed.

Barrett, though, still saw things he liked in his recruit.

"He was sharp, mentally, and that's one of the keys you need at the quarterback position," Barrett said. "And he was a competitor. That stands out more than anything else. The biggest question we had in Saskatchewan was, can we keep him healthy?"

The injuries, particularly one to his thumb in Year 2, caused Glenn to feel a flicker of doubt about his career choice. But he decided this was what he wanted to do, and he held onto the belief he could succeed, if he got another chance.

ALWAYS ENVISIONED

"As far as leading the league and being on a team in first place and doing a lot of good things, yeah, I've always envisioned doing it," he said. "With this game, it takes time. You've got to be put in the right situations with the right guys and the right staff. Everything happens for a reason."

In May of 2004, something happened that, initially, didn't look positive.

Stuck behind Nealon Greene, Henry Burris and Rocky Butler on the Riders depth chart, Glenn asked to be traded. His wish was to play in Hamilton or Toronto, closer to his family.

Reluctantly, Barrett says, the Riders agreed, making a deal with Toronto. What they didn't know was that Argonauts GM Adam Rita had also been talking with Winnipeg GM Brendan Taman. The next thing Glenn knew, he'd been traded twice.

"Tuesday night I was going to Toronto. Wednesday morning I found out I was coming to Winnipeg," Glenn recalled. "At the time it was like, 'Wow. Winnipeg?' You look back on it now, and you know what? It may have been the best thing.

"It gave me an opportunity to learn a little bit from Khari (Jones), a guy who did some great things in this league. And once he got traded... I got a chance to show what I could do and prove to the team I could be that guy. They backed me, and here I am today."

There remained some dues to be paid, however.

Glenn took over a Bomber team on a downslide midway through the '04 season, and despite posting some decent numbers he couldn't get the team into the playoffs that year, or the next.

His penchant for ill-timed interceptions didn't endear him to the Winnipeg audience, either.

The enduring image from last season, when the Bombers returned to the playoffs with a 9-9 record, remains Glenn's interception on a potential game-winning drive late in the East semifinal at Toronto. It's a memory that won't be completely erased until Glenn leads his team to a post-season victory.

But there's no arguing the man's play in 2007. Going into this week's Banjo Bowl, Glenn has been one of the CFL's most accurate passers, without an interception through an astounding six games.

The recognition has started to come his way, with Tillman's comments adding an exclamation point to those of Argos coach Pinball Clemons a week earlier.

Clemons called Glenn not only the most underrated quarterback in the league, but someone who "may very well be the best quarterback in the league."

Glenn appears unwilling to get caught up in the hype, perhaps recalling the long, sometimes difficult road he took to get here.

Don't forget, too, with a front-row seat to Jones's last days as a Bomber, he saw firsthand how quickly one's star can fall.

But the praise from a legend like Pinball certainly caught his attention.

"He's been around a lot of good quarterbacks," Glenn said. "If a guy like that can give you a compliment like that, it means a lot."

So did nobody see this coming?

Bomber head coach Doug Berry called Glenn an "adequate" quarterback when he first took over prior to last season.

"That was based on knowing nothing about him," Berry said recently. "Until you deal with somebody, you really don't know much about him. I was hoping he'd fit into what we wanted to do. I saw the potential was there. It was giving him the opportunities to go out and do it."

The first year in Berry's offence, Glenn was on a learning curve. This year he's at top speed on a straight-away to all-star status.

"His maturation has happened due to a lot of things," Berry said, crediting the Winnipeg offensive line, receivers and running back Charles Roberts. "You couple all those things with him being able to maintain some good health, stay within a system he's understood for well over a year now, and that's the reason he's playing the way he is."

Glenn's first CFL coach says he knew Glenn could be a No. 1 quarterback. Winnipeg fans, Barrett assures, can stop wondering if he's for real.

"They can believe it," Barrett said. "They had a taste of it, already. He started out well last year, and then he got hurt and you saw what happened. And this year with him being healthy, his record speaks for itself."

Barrett recalls one other thing about Glenn in those early days, something the Bombers are beginning to reap the benefits of.

"He's a leader, too," Barrett said. "The look he has in his eyes, guys feed off that. I think, quietly, Kevin has become that guy."

It's certainly been subtle, almost behind the scenes. Glenn didn't swagger into the locker-room and take charge, the way Jonas and Dunigan did. And he didn't do it overnight, the way Jones seemed to.

But he's done it, nonetheless.

"My father coached me in a lot of sports, growing up," Glenn said. "Teaching me leadership and that kind of thing, on and off the field, in whatever sport it was. So that helped me."

Kevin Glenn, Sr., must have taught his son to do things quietly. Because Glenn has become a CFL star without so much as a peep.

Don't tell him he's peaked, though.

"Nah. I can play better," Glenn said. "And hopefully you'll get to see this year."

He said it with a smile and a sparkle in his eye.

The look of a man doing exactly what he always believed he could do.

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BOMBERS ALL-TIME LEADING PASSERS

(yardage)

1. Dieter Brock 29,623

2. Khari Jones 20,175

3. Ken Ploen 16,470

4. Tom Clements 14,917

5. Don Jonas 12,291

6. Kevin Glenn 12,094

7. Matt Dunigan 11,504

8. Jack Jacobs 11,094


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