What a Canada Day weekend it was in the Canadian Football League. After years of searching for the next Canadian who could be a star quarterback, 2022 provided a glimpse at what could be the future of Canadians in the league, with Nathan Rourke pressing on with the BC Lions, and Tre Ford getting (and winning) his first start with the Edmonton Elks.
In his first professional start, Ford completed 15 of his 26 passes for 159 yards, and threw one touchdown and one interception, but it wasn’t what he did through the air that had people impressed. Rather, it was what he did with his legs that had people gushing. Ford led the Elks in rushing with James Wilder Jr. sidelined, scampering for 61 yards on six carries, but also evaded pressure numerous times before getting the ball out to one of his playmakers.
It’s not the numbers that mattered the most, however. It was what came at the end of the game, the Elks’ first win of the season. There’s no question that Ford’s first start provided a much-needed spark for the Elks, and it gave their fan base hope that they have the quarterback of the future already locked up, but even though his performance was promising, he still needs time to develop.
No one in the right mind could have watched that performance from Ford and said that there’s no way he becomes a starting quarterback in the CFL, but on the other side of that coin, it’s also clear that he isn’t quite there yet. It’s like finding a diamond in the mines. You can’t just pull it out of the rocks and stick it on a ring, you first need to polish it, clean it, and make the perfect ring for it to sit on. It takes time, but ultimately, you know that it’s going to be a beautiful diamond whenever it’s ready.
For all of the good things Ford managed to do in securing the Elks their first win, there were still a handful of moments where you went “yup, that guy is a rookie quarterback.” Whether it was a throw where the timing was off with his receiver or where he just put too much on it, it needed just a little bit of fine-tuning. But that’s the important thing, there was nothing about his game that made you cringe, they were just the run-of-the-mill rookie blunders that every single quarterback has made at one time or another.
While the two aren’t particularly close to being the same player, Rourke and Ford will be attached at the hip for the entire time they are in the CFL. Why is that relevant? Because in 2021, Rourke showed huge potential, but there were still times where he made silly mistakes, but after being named the BC Lions’ starter this season, those (for the most part) have vanished. It shows just how immensely talented he is, considering he’s still only a second-year pro and just 24 years old.
Right now, there’s no telling if Ford will become one of the league’s top quarterbacks as quickly as Rourke has, but he clearly needs time before he gets to that level.
As for what the Elks do from here on out, that’s still up for debate. Considering Ford came into Hamilton and didn’t do anything to hurt his team’s chance of winning, it seems more than likely that he will get at least the next start in week five against the Calgary Stampeders. If he keeps playing as he did in his first start, there would be no reason to yank him, but this won’t be a straight road without its fair share of bumps. If Chris Jones is fully committed to Ford being his starting quarterback, fans are going to have to be patient if/when the mistakes come.
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