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Vernon Adams Jr.'s breakout season leads Alouettes back to the CFL playoffs

His CFL career has been defined by his determination. When the season began, Adams wasn’t exactly Plan A for the Alouettes.

Adams started the year as the Alouettes 4th string quarterback, now he’s the team's top player

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., reacts after defeating the Calgary Stampeders in a CFL football game in Montreal on Oct. 5. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Patience and perseverance are virtues for anyone hoping to make it as a professional football player, yet some — like Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. — are tested more than others. 

His journey to becoming the starting quarterback of a playoff-bound team took years, and even at the start of this season, getting the job looked improbable​​​​. 

When the season began, Adams wasn't Plan A for the Alouettes. As the fourth quarterback on the depth chart, he was more like Plan D.

He had to fight to earn the starting job and — at least early on — had to fight each game to keep it.

"I'm a team guy and I want to do whatever it takes to win. I'll die for this game — like for real — on the field, I'd die for it. That's how much I love this game," Adams says.

His resolve is paying off now. Adams put together a career best season piloting the Montreal Alouettes' offence. 

He led the team to 10 wins for the first time since 2012, and led Montreal back to the CFL playoffs for the first time since 2014.

The long road to Montreal's starting job

Adams's CFL career has been defined by his determination, as he bounced around from team to team.

Coming out of college — where he played his senior year for the Oregon Ducks — he was originally part of the B.C. Lions before the Alouettes then-general manager Jim Popp traded for him. 

'I'm a team guy and I want to do whatever it takes to win. I'll die for this game,' Adams says. 2:02

Adams won some games for Montreal at the end of the 2016 season, but despite his performance, the team eventually decided that he wasn't going to be their quarterback moving forward. 

He then had a run with Saskatchewan that didn't work out, and in 2018, he landed in Hamilton.

At one point, to stay on the roster with the Tiger Cats, he even volunteered to switch positions and play as a receiver. 

"It was all just opportunity. That's the best thing to say [about it]. I've met a bunch of great coaches and great players. So I look at it like that," Adams says. 

"I want to be a coach when it's all said and done, so if I'm making a good impression on everybody they're going to remember me in the future." 

Adams isn't the kind of person who burns his bridges, and that extends to the fans as well.

When he came back to the Alouettes in 2018, he got an opportunity to play again. But with the former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on the roster at the time, there were moments when Adams was playing, but the crowd was calling for Manziel. 

'I see a lot of the fans with number 8 jerseys and it's just a dream come true,' Adams said. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

"I love the fans here. They have a lot of energy," Adams says. 

"I see a lot of the fans with number eight jerseys and it's just a dream come true — I'm playing professional football. I never thought I would be, and I'm seeing kids and parents and people wearing number eight. It's awesome." 

Lack of ownership looms over the team

To call the Montreal Alouettes off-field situation this season unstable is putting it lightly. 

The team has been without ownership since the Wetenhall family handed control to the league during training camp, right before they played their first game, the incumbent head coach Mike Sherman was fired. 

Then, only a few weeks into the year, the general manager Kavis Reed was let go too. 

Few observers gave the Alouettes a chance to be competitive. 

"Everybody was saying, 'It's going to be the same Montreal team, no playoffs.' We weren't worried about that," Adams says.

"We weren't listening to that. We knew what we had — and we've got — championship mindsets in here."

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., right, hands off to Jeremiah Johnson during second half CFL football action against the Toronto Argonauts in Montreal, Friday, October 18, 2019. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Adams would love to have some job security moving forward, however. 

He's earned it with his play, a great example of that is the fact was named his team's nominee for the CFL's most outstanding player award.

But without owners, he doesn't know what his long term future holds.

He believes winning is the only thing that can bolster his appeal as the starting quarterback into the future.    

"We can hang with the best of them. We've seen it all year. We've hung with Calgary, Winnipeg — the best," Adams says.

"So we've just got to get over that hump, and finish, and bring that Grey Cup home." 


Adams and the Alouettes will host the Edmonton Eskimos in their first playoff game since 2014 on November 10 at Percival Molson Stadium.

About the Author

Douglas Gelevan, a national award-winning sports journalist, has been a member of the CBC team since 2010. He is currently the sports journalist for CBC News Montreal.

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