Going from MVP of a national champion to the practice roster of the Toronto Argonauts may not be the path most football players dream about.
But that’s the reality for Danny Brannagan, a Queen’s University star trying to do the seemingly impossible: make it as a Canadian quarterback in the Canadian Football League.
No Canadian has started a game at quarterback since Giulio Caravatta did it with the B.C. Lions in 1996.
Brannagan’s chance of breaking that 14-year drought will not likely happen this season, but with an injury to Cleo Lemon last week, the Burlington, Ont. native did at least dress for his very first CFL game, albeit as a third-stringer.
The experience was an unforgettable one for the 24-year-old, who suited up against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Oct. 2.
“It was a great opportunity, something that I’ll always remember,” said Brannagan after practice on Wednesday. “First CFL dressed is definitely a cool experience and it was awesome that it was at home in Toronto.”
While getting playing time this year is doubtful, Brannagan remains enthused about the development of his game.
He began the year a little unsure about how he’ll adapt to playing at the professional level, but now feels he knows more about not only the level of competition, but his own development as a player.
“I think one of the biggest things is that when you first start out, you’re a little apprehensive sometimes,” he said. “But now I think after 13 weeks and an exhibition game that I know I can compete at this level, so I’m just a little more confident.”
Brannagan reached the highest levels in CIS football when he led the Queen’s Golden Gaels to a 33-31 win over the Calgary Dinos for the 2009 Vanier Cup.
He took that success and turned it into a practice roster spot, an opportunity Brannagan has embraced wholeheartedly despite the hardships involved in playing a different role than what he was used to in university.
“[Keeping focus] is definitely something that’s a little more difficult and it’s easy to have some mental lapses,” he said.
“But every week I take diligent notes, and the day before games I give them out to the other quarterbacks, just important things on the week and things like that and so it keeps me mentally in tune with what’s going on.”
The quarterback goes on to point out areas he still needs to improve on as a pivot.
“You always got to be working on something,” Brannagan said. “Just trying to work on my feet, try and make sure that I have a good base under me when I’m throwing the ball.”
With Cleo Lemon possibly returning this Saturday, Brannagan would likely move back to the practice roster.
His time in the spotlight may yet be down the road, but until then, he’s satisfied with the progress he has made.
“I feel like I’ve improved my game and I think fundamentally I’ve made some corrections. [I’m] still working on things, but overall I think I’ve improved as a quarterback.”