He’s preparing for his second Montreal Alouettes training camp, but Hugo Richard will be more than just an interested spectator this time around.
The former Laval Rouge et Or star quarterback signed a two-year deal with Montreal earlier this week. Richard attended the Alouettes’ camp as a guest quarterback last summer before returning to school.
“Obviously it’s a totally different mindset,” Richard said. “Being there as an invited guest isn’t the same as belonging there.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the different dynamic from the start, to have a look at the playbook before camp.”
Laval capped a perfect ’18 campaign with a 34-20 Vanier Cup win over the Western Mustangs last November. In his final collegiate contest, the six-foot-two, 225-pound Richard was the game MVP after completing 23-of-31 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 60 yards and a TD in capturing his second Canadian university title.
The 24-year-old native of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., completed 782-of-1,145 passes (68.3 per cent) for 10,271 yards with 70 TDs in 38 career games at Laval. He also ran 200 times for 1,228 yards (6.14-yard average) and 30 touchdowns, becoming the only player in Quebec conference history to throw 70 scoring strikes and score 30 majors.
But Richard will likely find himself at the bottom of Montreal’s quarterback depth chart once camp begins. Veterans Johnny Manziel, Antonio Pipkin, Vernon Adams Jr., Matthew Shiltz and Jeff Mathews are also on the Alouettes roster.
“It’s going to be challenging to make a statement and get a place in there,” Richard said.
“But it’s going to be interesting to learn from these quarterbacks and see what they’ve learned over the years.”
Richard won’t be the lone Canadian quarterback vying for a CFL roster spot.
Last month, the Toronto Argonauts signed Regina’s Noah Picton to a three-year deal. Picton attended the club’s training camp last year before returning to the Rams.
A Canadian-born quarterback in the CFL is a rare commodity. Brandon Bridge, of Mississauga, Ont., was the only one in the league last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the six-foot-five, 235-pound Bridge is scheduled to become a free agent next month.
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Bridge made four starts in 2018, going 2-2. Overall, the four-year veteran completed 82-of-131 passes (62.6 per cent) for 804 yards with a TD and three interceptions.
The previous year, Bridge finished 92-of-138 passing (66.7 per cent) for 1,236 yards with 10 TDs and four interceptions.
Bridge also started a game for Montreal in 2015. That made him the first Canadian quarterback to do so since Giulio Caravatta of the B.C. Lions in 1996.
‘Being paid to play a sport that you love so much is a really cool thing’
Calgary native Andrew Buckley spent two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders before retiring prior to last season to enter medical school.
Richard understands the scrutiny he’ll face trying to crack Montreal’s roster as a Canadian quarterback.
“If I’m able to get the chance to do something and show that Canadian quarterbacks belong in the league, then obviously it’s going to open doors for other guys,” Richard said.
“That would really be a good thing.”
Richard said growing up he always dreamed about having the chance to play professional football.
“It’s been on my radar more seriously obviously since I got to college,” he said. “But I’ve always wanted to do this or at least try to do this.”
“Being paid to play a sport that you love so much is a really cool thing.”
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Richard believes his time at Laval has helped prepare him for the CFL, allowing him to develop from a run-first quarterback into one who can still take off when needed but also comfortably drop back and look down field.
“I think the key for me will be to stay composed, try to be sharp and really be on the ball and able to adapt really quickly if changes are made,” he said. “I think they (Alouettes) have seen everything I can do on tape.
“They just don’t really know me as a person yet. They’ll see I’m a good teammate, I try to help everyone I can, I work hard and like to put my best foot forward.”
Richard will juggle his workouts with completing his mechanical engineering internship en route to securing his degree. Once football is over, Richard plans to enter that profession full time.
“It’s going to require some discipline (combining workouts with internship),” he said. “But it’s doable.”