Jeremiah Masoli has officially been a member of the Ottawa Redblacks for a couple of days now, but the thrill has continued for fans through Free Agency. Numerous names have signed the dotted line and switched their allegiances to red and black, and after two seasons of bottom-of-the-barrel football, the focus has shifted to one thing; winning games.
That is exactly the case for Masoli who spent the past eight seasons as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“I’m here to win and I want to win with these guys,” Masoli said.
There is of course a previous connection between Masoli and Redblacks’ new general manager, Shawn Burke. Burke had been with the Tabbies since 2007 before he was hired as Marcel Desjardins’ replacement ahead of the 2022 season. He stated in his introductory press conference that they would be looking for a quarterback when Free Agency opened, and that led them directly to Masoli’s door.
“To have a guy that you have seen day in and day out for the better part of eight years of what he brings to the locker room, what the sport means to him, what family means to him, and what family means to him meant a lot when making this decision,” said Burke.
After a 2021 season where Masoli threw for 2,445 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, he was a wanted man. He nearly led the Tiger-Cats to a win in the Grey Cup game over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to boot, but the Redblacks were the top of the list of suitors that also reportedly included the Edmonton Elks.
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“To be able to have a place that you can call home, [my family] cherishes that a lot,” said Masoli. “Making that decision I felt it was for not only my family’s best interest, but myself as a player and my career to go ahead and align myself with somebody that I already know and trust.”
“To me, it was just the right fit. Talking with some of the players on the team currently, even some of my old teammates that played here as well, so I definitely did my research.”
Not to be forgotten in this is head coach Paul LaPolice. This wasn’t a matter of a general manager wanting a player and the head coach wanting someone else, LaPolice was fully on board. He went as far as to make packages of film and begin planning his playbook before it was ever confirmed that Masoli would be coming to Ottawa. LaPolice knew who he wanted.
“Jeremiah is a great leader of men,” said head coach Paul LaPolice. “His players believe in him and he will give hope to his players. I’ve talked to some players who have just spoken so highly of him so that’s the first part you want to think about when you think about who’s the franchise player.”
Masoli has never played for the Redblacks before, but he is quite familiar with playing important games in Ottawa. Think of the East Final in 2015 where he was on the other end of the miraculous Greg Ellingson touchdown play or the numerous regular-season games, he’s been there done that in Ottawa.
“I’ve had a lot of games here and I’ve obviously had a lot of battles here with a lot of stuff on the line,” Masoli said. “Whether it was the East Final or even just regular season. In the rain, the fans were still showing up and going crazy, so what I remember is the passionate fans and how they really love their team.”
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Winning is still the most important thing, however. Masoli has been unable to reach the ultimate dream of hoisting the Grey Cup over his head, and while he would love to get there, he knows that it’s going to be a team effort.
“It’s not going to be all on me,” Masoli said. “It’s going to be all of us, it’s going to be a group effort. I’m just a piece of the puzzle and the reason why I’m here is that I want to collaborate with everybody, even the other quarterbacks. I can’t wait to get in there and help them. I know they are going to help me, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be a group effort to get there.”
The other quarterbacks make things interesting. Fans have been quick to anoint Caleb Evans as a future star in the CFL, and Devlin “Duck” Hodges and Taryn Christion are also promising pieces for the future. While one (or maybe even two) of those players could likely start in 2022, Burke believes that Masoli can not only benefit the team now, he can also help those quarterbacks be better down the road.
“I’ve seen how young guys in this league fit in with Jeremiah and how he provides the mentorship. He doesn’t see them as threats,” said Burke. “When people saw from afar what Dane [Evans] and Jeremiah had in Hamilton, they might have said it was for the cameras or for soundbites. But I saw it personally behind the scenes from them requesting to be roommates all the time on the road, to the amount of film [they watched] together along with David Watford and Jalen Morton, so I know who Jeremiah is.”
“He’s had several different quarterback situations in his career already,” he continued. “Everyone of them, he has just embraced his competitors as teammates because that’s what they are. It takes 45 guys that dress in a game, but it takes probably 65 to 70 to go with the common goal of trying to win football games.”
“With the young guys, they got thrown into the fire and I think with having a guy like Jeremiah around, it could slow everything down,” said Burke. “Just let them learn behind him and his process. I’m excited for the quarterbacks to come to camp, they are going to compete.”
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