After Brandon Bridge went undrafted into the NFL, he fielded calls from teams interested in his services — just not as quarterback.
He hung up on all of them.
“There was no way I was going to play wide receiver, it’s either quarterback or nothing,” he said simply. “Honestly, you just have to stick to your guns.”
Not surprisingly, that was one of the pieces of advice Bridge had for young Canadian quarterbacks coming up in a system that is stacked against them.
The CFL doesn’t count quarterbacks as part of the Canadian ratio, so teams have no incentive to develop them.
Quarterbacks who play USPORTS — football at the Canadian college level — may get looks from teams, but like the NFL teams that came knocking on Bridge’s door they usually want them in other positions.
“It happens a lot,” Bridge conceded. “There’s no reason why the second you get there, before you even took a snap at quarterback, they’re already trying to move you to a position you’re unfamiliar with … well, give me a chance first.”
The 26-year-old from Toronto, fought for his chance and it got him to where he is now: a viable starting quarterback in the Canadian Football League.
His fight started in the eighth grade when a young Bridge saw quarterback Michael Vick on television and wanted to be just like him.
“(My football team) just had a bunch of running backs and I was like the main running back, but I said I wanted to play quarterback and I said I didn’t want to play any other position,” Bridge said. “I actually demanded it.”
From there, Bridge excelled. By the end of his grade 10 year, he had offers from universities all across Canada, but he set his sights higher. He wanted to play at a Division 1 school in the NCAA.
Bridge attended football camps across the United States and got noticed. It gave him the confidence to know he could play against some of the best players America had to offer.
“I knew that I was better than most of the talent I was around and wanted to have better competition so I wanted to go down south.”
That’s another piece of advice, by the way, Bridge said if given the opportunity to play some high school football in the U.S., young quarterbacks should jump at it.
“I had that opportunity, but I didn’t take it and that’s probably the only regret I have throughout my whole life is that I didn’t go down south when I had the opportunity … I think the high schools in Canada aren’t really producing a lot for us Canadians at the quarterback position, there’s not much coaching, so you definitely have go down there and focus.”
It worked out well for Bridge, who played two seasons at Alcorn University before transferring to the University of South Alabama — a division one school.
As a senior in 2014, Bridge completed 160 of 307 passes for 1,927 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for nearly 300 yards and four more touchdowns.
“It was a dream come true,” Bridge said of his time at South Alabama.
It’s a dream he continues to live — and fight for — even now.
Bridge had his best CFL season last year coming in relief of Kevin Glenn. He played 12 games and started one, threw for 1,236 yards and ten touchdowns. He rushed for another one.
In the off-season the Roughriders signed him to a one-year contract extension. They also added Zach Collaros in a trade with Hamilton.
A fact that didn’t dishearten Bridge — even though many believe Collaros will be the starting quarterback. Instead, it motivated him.
“It’s nothing different, obviously. I always have to have an obstacle to jump over and this is just another one,” he said. “I’m a guy that’s going to compete every day and whatever happens happens but just know that everyone will see exactly what I do on game day.”
“I’ve grown and I know the offence in and out and I’m just out there working. Hopefully one day they give me the keys and let me roll: The Canadian kid with the CFL’s team.”