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STU COWAN: Alouettes' Vernon Adams Jr. making most of his opportunity

Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. took over the starting QB role after Antonio Pipkin went down with an ankle injury in the first game of the season.
Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. took over the starting QB role after Antonio Pipkin went down with an ankle injury in the first game of the season.

Success in pro football is sometimes the result of simply being in the right place at the right time and making the most of an opportunity.

Tom Brady was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round (199th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft and was a backup until the second week of the 2001 season, when starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured. Brady stepped in and has been the No. 1 QB ever since, leading the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships.

Which brings us to Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr., who will make his third straight CFL start Saturday in Ottawa against the Redblacks (4 p.m., TSN1, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) after Antonio Pipkin suffered an ankle injury in a season-opening 32-25 loss to the Eskimos in Edmonton.

The Alouettes lost 41-10 in Hamilton in Adams’s first start, before beating the Tiger-Cats 36-29 in a rematch last week at Molson Stadium. Adams was 14-of-24 for 173 yards in the first game with one TD pass and one interception, and was 14-of-25 for 202 yards with no TDs or interceptions in his second start.

Adams gave himself a grade of C after his first start and felt he improved the next game, but not enough.

“Oh, man. It’s still kind of tough,” he said after practice this week when asked for a new grade. “I’d say like a C-plus … maybe B-minus. But there’s still plays that I left out there. I know we’re this close to being great, like a really good team. Myself, if I play close to 100 per cent — 75 to 100 — we’re going to be great, we’re going to be good. It doesn’t matter which quarterback — the way our offence is set up and the way (head coach Khari Jones) calls plays, we can be successful.”

Jones was asked if the starting QB job was now Adams’s to lose.

“I don’t know, to tell the truth,” the coach said. “Vernon is playing well; he’s gotten better. He looked a lot better (the second) game than he did last game, and that’s all you want. You want the guys who get an opportunity to make the most of it, and he did.”

Jones added that Pipkin could be ready to return next Saturday when the Alouettes play the Eskimos at Molson Stadium.

“At the end of the day, Pip comes back and he’s the guy and I’m still going to back him up and push him to be great,” Adams said. “But I think it’s a good opportunity for me to put good things on film, whether it’s for this team’s future or for another team’s future. I’m not thinking about another team, I’m just thinking about putting good things on film just for my future to be successful. I think it’s a big opportunity and I need to come out and win and be smart.”

Adams, 26, grew up in California and started playing flag football when he was only two, before switching to tackle at age six. He admits knowing nothing about the CFL until his third year at Eastern Washington University, when he learned he was on the B.C. Lions negotiation list.

“I was like: ‘What’s the B.C. Lions?’ ” said Adams, who transferred to University of Oregon for his final season of college.

The Alouettes acquired Adams’s rights from the Lions in exchange for a first-round pick at the 2017 CFL Draft, and he started the final three games of the 2016 season before being traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Aug. 15, 2017. The Roughriders then traded Adams to Hamilton on Feb. 2, 2018, and the Alouettes re-signed him on June 26, 2018 after he was released by the Tiger-Cats.

Adams says Jones, who spent 11 seasons as a QB in the CFL and was the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2001, has really helped him.

“He’s been through everything,” Adams said about his coach. “He was a quarterback in the CFL for a long time, so he knows the game. He knows how the game needs to be played and how guys need to rest their bodies. That’s why he’s such a great fit for us as a head coach.”

Running-back Will Stanback has also helped, carrying the ball 22 times for 203 yards and three TDs in last week’s win over the Tiger-Cats.

“I’m really proud of our running game,” Adams said. “How the O-line blocked for Stanback, how he ran, it really helped me out.”

Now, Adams is trying to make a name for himself in a league he knew nothing about not so long ago.

“I love the CFL. Quarterbacks can make good money — you can make a living up here. Bo Levi (Mitchell) money and those guys, I can deal with that,” Adams said about Mitchell’s four-year contract with the Calgary Stampeders, reported to be worth $2.8 million. “I just need to get to that level first. I need to earn it first. I need to win games and just be better and earn that position.”

scowan@postmedia.com

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