June 19, 2018

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Bombers QB Streveler shares something in common with fellow named Calvillo

Chris Streveler arrived in the CFL last month armed with a glittering, record-breaking resumé assembled during a two-season stretch with the University of South Dakota Coyotes.

He was talented and athletically gifted to be sure. But no one could have anticipated what would come next — that a 23-year-old greenhorn from Crystal Lake, Ill., would be the Week 1 starting quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when they host the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field Thursday night.

Rookie QBs almost never start in the CFL. To find a rookie quarterback who comes directly from college to start a Week 1 regular-season game requires a deep dive into the league's historical record. In fact, the last man to accomplish the feat was Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo, who emerged from Utah State to start immediately for the Las Vegas Posse in 1994.

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Chris Streveler arrived in the CFL last month armed with a glittering, record-breaking resumé assembled during a two-season stretch with the University of South Dakota Coyotes.

He was talented and athletically gifted to be sure. But no one could have anticipated what would come next — that a 23-year-old greenhorn from Crystal Lake, Ill., would be the Week 1 starting quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when they host the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field Thursday night.

Rookie QBs almost never start in the CFL. To find a rookie quarterback who comes directly from college to start a Week 1 regular-season game requires a deep dive into the league's historical record. In fact, the last man to accomplish the feat was Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo, who emerged from Utah State to start immediately for the Las Vegas Posse in 1994.

Streveler and the club's quarterbacks were off limits to reporters Monday but Blue Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, Streveler's college roommate at the University of Minnesota before he transferred to South Dakota, was thrilled for his friend. And he said his team is in capable hands.

"Man, it's quite a journey for him and I'm sure he's excited," said Wolitarsky following practice Monday afternoon. "The ability to come in and start, that's unheard of for a rookie.

"But if there's any guy that can do it, it's him. He has one of the strongest wills I know. A story about him is we used to have to do this (beep) test, and basically you run until exhaustion and you can't run anymore. He would make it almost until the end and everyone else would be dead tired."

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Chris Streveler (17) during practice at Investors Group Field Monday morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Chris Streveler (17) during practice at Investors Group Field Monday morning.

Streveler has outlasted the competition, too. He was deemed the best man for the starting job but he also found himself in the right place at the right time, beating out fellow newcomers Alex Ross and Bryan Bennett for the No. 1 job left temporarily vacant when incumbent Matt Nichols went down with a knee injury in training camp that will sideline him for four to six weeks.

Wolitarsky is certain Streveler will be a success.

THE STREVELER FILE

Age: 23

Hometown: Crystal Lake, Ill.

Height: 6-2; weight: 220 pounds

College career: spent three seasons at the University of Minnesota, including a redshirt year as a freshman. Played sparingly at quarterback and was converted into a wide receiver for a portion of a season... transferred to South Dakota and was a starter for the Coyotes in 2016 and 2017.

Age: 23

Hometown: Crystal Lake, Ill.

Height: 6-2; weight: 220 pounds

College career: spent three seasons at the University of Minnesota, including a redshirt year as a freshman. Played sparingly at quarterback and was converted into a wide receiver for a portion of a season... transferred to South Dakota and was a starter for the Coyotes in 2016 and 2017.

By the numbers: set 20 program records at South Dakota including single-season marks for passing (4,134 yards) and total offence (4,854) in 2017... accounted for 43 TDs, including 32 passing majors and 11 rushing touchdowns. He led the Coyotes with 720 rushing yards... first South Dakota player to be named Missouri Football Conference offensive player of the year... surrendered only eight turnovers in 481 pass attempts and 168 running plays.

Honours: finalist for Walter Payton Award, awarded to the best offensive player in NCAA Division 1 FCS and named to FCS academic all-star team in 2017. Named Missouri Valley Football Conference newcomer of the year in 2016.

Testing his limits: at his pro day in March, Streveler ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, registered a 125-inch broad jump and a vertical leap of 38.5 inches. Those marks topped all quarterbacks at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Streveler went undrafted by the NFL.

"He just has that mentality, to push and perservere," said Wolitarsky, who caught Streveler's first pre-season pass for a gain of eight yards during an outing of 10-for-10 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown in a 33-13 win over the Eskimos on June 1. "He'll be in the film room today, getting prepared and making sure he knows what he's doing. That's just the kind of guy he is — a trustworthy guy."

Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea confirmed Streveler's starting status, despite an uneven performance in Winnipeg's 34-21 pre-season loss to the B.C. Lions Friday night.

Streveler went 3-for-9 passing for 44 yards and a touchdown. He also surrendered a 62-yard interception for a touchdown to B.C.'s Otha Foster.

"We said it was going to be an evaluation of everything they had done to this point and we just feel he's won that competition...," said O'Shea. "I think he obviously did very well through camp and played well in the games."

Chris Streveler arrived in the CFL last month.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chris Streveler arrived in the CFL last month.

Streveler's skill set includes crazy speed for a quarterback. He clocked a 4.45 time in the 40 at his pro day earlier this spring and has a reputation for being an excellent open-field runner. He also displayed a strong, accurate arm during training camp.

"I think everyone can see his athleticism," said O'Shea. "I think that's the least of the qualities that are going to make him successful... He gets through the playbook and plays that are called very quickly. He retains information. He makes good, quick decisions and then comes the athleticism, right?"

Winnipeg's coaching staff is not planning any measures to ease Streveler's transition to the pro game.

"He's a pro athlete," said O'Shea. "He's gonna be just fine. He really will be. No, we're not going to limit the playbook or whatever. We have 12 guys on the field on offence, he's one of those and everybody's going to do their job. We're not telling guys they have to do more, you don't need the defence to do more, you don't need the special teams to do more."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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