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VANCOUVER – Drew Tate has one of the best jobs in the CFL, maybe in all of sports. The Calgary Stampeders backup quarterback is now a Grey Cup champion thanks to his major contribution – in very limited action.
Tate is in his sixth season with the Stamps and has the unique role of being the team’s goal-line and short-yardage go-to quarterback. In the CFL, where the offence and defence line up one yard apart on the line of scrimmage, a QB sneak to gain one yard is an all-but-automatic play. And often that role goes to the backup quarterback. Tate, in particular, excels at this task.
In Sunday’s 20-16 Grey Cup victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Tate rushed three times for three yards – and scored two touchdowns. Twice in the first half he plunged into the endzone from the one-yard line. On his third rush he picked up a yard on 3rd-and-1, thought he did momentarily drop the ball on the exchange. The game’s Most Outstanding Player award went to Calgary’s starting quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, but Tate had a good case of his own considering he scored the Stamps’ only touchdowns of the game.
The whole situation is an experience that Tate relishes.
“I love it because I don’t get hurt,” Tate said enthusiastically as he celebrated Calgary’s win.
Tate’s heroics weren’t a one-game wonder, either. He led the CFL in rushing touchdowns this season with 10 – five more than All-Star teammate Jon Cornish, the league’s leading rusher. Most of his touchdowns were of the one-yard variety. He had only 42 carries for 129 yards, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. He also started four games after Mitchell was hurt earlier this season.
With Tate’s limited role and the Stampeders’ offensive struggles in the second half he was left to just watch as the Tiger-Cats clawed back. The game, of course, all but ended when Brandon Banks’ 90-yard punt-return touchdown was called back because of an illegal block.
“I just dropped my head when I saw that run back [by Banks],” Tate said. “I didn’t see the flag but everybody on our sideline was pointing back at it. And that was the game, because there’s no way they were going to go 100 yards on our defence in 30 seconds.”
As a Stampeders veteran, Tate has been part of some disappointing playoff seasons in Calgary, including losing the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. Now in his second try he gets to drink from the Cup.
“It was definitely coming,” Tate said, relieved. “There’s too many good guys on this team, we’ve worked really hard and we have such great team unity. We knew we weren’t going to lose this one.”
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