Blue Bombers love Leason
Darryl Leason is showing he belongs at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp.
The Bombers surprised some last year when they placed the six-foot-four, 230-pound Leason on their negotiation list, giving them exclusive rights to the Hudson Bay, Sask., native.
The raised eyebrows weren't a reflection upon Leason's ability -- he was Canadian university's passing leader in 2000 and led the Regina Rams to the Vanier Cup game.
But Canadian-born quarterbacks are a rarity in the CFL.
Hamilton native Larry Jusdanis was the last homebrew to start a league game, doing so in 1997 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Leason, 27, a married father of two, is one of three quarterbacks vying for backup duties behind starter Khari Jones and is showing that he isn't a novelty act.
"He's got good size and a good arm," said Bombers offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman. "Things happen a lot faster in the CFL than they do in junior football and in the CIAU and he's had his head filled with a lot of information right now.
"But he's got the skills to compete. I don't care what nationality they are or where they're from as long as they can get the job done."
Leason can improve his stock Thursday when the Bombers face the Montreal Alouettes at Molson Stadium.
Leason is expected to play about a quarter in the game.
"That's the big one," said Leason. "That's what it's going to come down to.
"I'm most likely going to get a quarter of play and it's what I do in that quarter.
"If I can show these guys I can move the ball and get some first downs that might be all it takes to earn me a spot on this team."
Leason had a chance to play in the CFL in 1996.
But he turned down an offer from the Edmonton Eskimos to be their third-string quarterback as a non-roster player.
Leason joins the Bombers with an impressive football resume.
He won three Canadian junior football titles with the Rams, a senior championship with the Calgary Wolfpack and was Canadian university football's passing leader in 1998 and 2000.
These days, Leason spends most of his spare time with his nose in Worman's playbook and asking questions of his roommate, Jones.
He has handled the speed of the CFL game and adapted nicely to the skill level of professional players.
Leason said his toughest adjustment has been to the intensity level of a pro football training camp.
"It's different, it's a job," said Leason. "At university, you're basically paying to play because it's costing you money to go to school and get your education.
"But here, you look in that locker room and there's guys who have to pay their bills by what they do out here. They can't afford to mess up.
"They have to stay focused."
Still, that doesn't mean Leason is fazed by his new surroundings.
"I feel comfortable on the field," he said. "I want to think that as a football player, no matter where I went to school or where I was born, I'm going to get an opportunity to play.
"That's all I'm looking for. I came here with great expectations."