Alouettes sign McMaster quarterback Quinlan to three-year contract

McMaster University star Kyle Quinlan has signed with the Montreal Alouettes and will get a shot at becoming one of the few Canadians to play quarterback in the CFL.
McMaster Marauder Kyle Quinlan has played his last game for the Vanier Cup finalists. His next game will likely be with the Montreal Alouettes. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

McMaster University star Kyle Quinlan has signed with the Montreal Alouettes and will get a shot at becoming one of the few Canadians to play quarterback in the CFL.

He signed a three-year contract with Montreal on Friday. The Alouettes formally announced the deal after the CFL completed the necessary paperwork.

The last Canadian to start a CFL game was Giulio Caravatta with the B.C. Lions in 1996. The last Canuck to take a snap Danny Brannagan, who went in late in the final game of the 2010 season for Toronto.

"It's a hot topic with fans and media who want to see a Canadian kid break that trend," the six-foot-three 215-pound Quinlan said. "I try not to look at it as 'I'm going to be that guy.'

"I just want to make the squad and take it one game at a time."

Quinlan and Acadia quarterback Kyle Graves were signed and attended the Alouettes' camp in the spring, but both were cut.

General manager Jim Popp was ready to bring Quinlan back near the end of the season, but he was busy leading the Marauders to a second straight Vanier Cup final.

"I have to be realistic about it — the first thing I have to do is make the roster," Quinlan said. "Last year, I got cut."

If he makes the team, Quinlan would likely be the No. 3 quarterback or spend a year or more on the practice roster. Starter Anthony Calvillo, the league's all-time passing leader, is returning for a 20th season, but backup Adrian McPherson is expected to sign as a free agent with another club. Montreal also has third-stringer Josh Niewswander and will likely sign another quarterback.

Popp said the team is in no hurry.

"A lot of quarterbacks in the CFL only start to step up and shine when they're 30," he said.

"We'll see how it goes."

Decades ago, Canadian quarterbacks flourished in the CFL, from Russ Jackson in Ottawa to Gerry Dattilio in Montreal. Few have had the chance in recent years.

The Alouettes drafted University of Montreal quarterback Marc-Olivier Brouillette in 2010, but he has made his career as a linebacker and special-teams player. Former Laval quarterback Mathieu Bertrand is a fullback in Edmonton.

That may be changing somewhat, as former University of Ottawa star Brad Sinopoli is a No. 3 quarterback in Calgary.

The Alouettes appear keen to promote Canadian quarterbacks. Beside Quinlan and Graves, they had six university passers in training camp for two days to soak up the atmosphere and learn from Calvillo and the coaching staff.

Quinlan called Montreal the ideal place for a young quarterback to learn.

"They've got probably the best quarterback in pro football, period, and [head coach] Marc Trestman is one of the best quarterback gurus," he said. "Anytime you jump between levels, there's a learning gap."

"I went through that going from high school to university. I adapted to the speed of the game and put in my time and eventually had a good career. It'll be the same in the pros."

Popp said there is a lot to like about Quinlan, who got some playing time with the Alouettes in a pre-season game against Toronto.

"Intelligence, demeanour, leadership, skill set — there's a lot to work with," said Popp. "There's a lot of development.

"Whether you're Canadian or American, it's rare for any quarterback to step in and play."

Quinlan got his first taste of CFL play at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats camp in 2010, but was bypassed in the 2012 Canadian college draft. Montreal signed him as a free agent.

He led McMaster to an overtime victory over Laval at the 2011 Vanier Cup, but then was on the losing end against the Rouge et Or at this year's CIS championship game.

Quinlan set a CIS record this season by completing 68.9 per cent of his passes. He threw for 2,457 yards and 19 touchdowns.