JORDAN Yantz has slapped a lot of backs and shaken a lot of hands since he first arrived in Winnipeg this week. After all, he's got a lot of people to introduce himself to while trying to score the starting quarterback gig with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
Funny thing about first impressions... Yantz, a Regina product who lit up the Canadian Junior Football League while playing for the Vancouver Island Raiders the last few years, has that innate ability to get you to buy in immediately.
It's a quiet confidence. It's the way he carries himself. It's...
"I'll say it: He's got 'swagger' and I use it in a very positive connotation," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie during a break from the club's spring practice. "Absolutely he has it. Every single person that has commented to me since he has arrived in Winnipeg -- whether it's people in our faculty, our coaching staff, players -- everybody comments on how confident he is.
"It's not cocky, not arrogant... confident. You can see why he's a winner. He's a talent. He's a very good football player but he has intrinsics about him that are evident in terms of leadership. He comes in here with our incumbent quarterbacks and together they'll keep raising the bar with each other. It's a great opportunity for all of them to compete for that starting spot."
The 22-year-old Yantz didn't arrive with just any old football resume. His credentials are positively gaudy, enough that Dobie has referred to him as one of the program's best recruits since he took over in 1996 and the "single best quarterback available in this nation" this winter:
- He was the CJFL's Most Outstanding Offensive Player last year after setting a record with 3,243 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions (he also won the award in 2010);
- He was part of the Raiders' back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009 and won MVP honours in the 2009 title game;
- He was the British Columbia Football Conference's top offensive player for three years running (2010-12)
- He holds the CJFL records for career passing yards and passing TDs.
And all of that meant zero and diddly when he stepped on the Bisons practice field for the first time over the weekend -- although he does have some familiar faces surrounding him, with four Raiders receivers (Michael Schaper, Dustin Pedersen, Matt Sawyer, Whitman Tomusiak) two linebackers (Jonathan Jones, Anthony Bienvenue) and a defensive back (Tremaine Apperley) in camp.
"What I've done in junior is behind me now," said Yantz. "This is a whole different league. From here I've got a clean slate. I consider myself a nobody right now. I've got to prove myself and show I can play football.
"Obviously I want to be (the starter) but I know it's not going to be handed to me. We're going to be competing day in and day out and if I want to be the guy I've got earn it."
The Bisons opened spring camp with four quarterbacks as the search began to replace last year's starter Cam Clark, who graduated. Joining Yantz, who has two years of CIS eligibility left after playing junior, are three-year vet Marc Paquette and Theo Deezar, who was part of the program last year after an outstanding high-school career at St. Paul's. Another ex-Crusader, Jamie Dzikowicz, was also at this weekend's sessions.
Yantz's workouts won't stop with the Bisons. Next month he'll attend training camp with the B.C. Lions for the second straight year.
"I'll actually be going to their quarterback school, which starts May 27, and then rookie camp and main camp in Kamloops," said Yantz. "It's all about learning. It's a great experience.
"I'm going to keep on eating it all up, whatever comes across my plate."
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