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Adams ready to take next step as a leader for Als

MONTREAL — New Montreal Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia stood confidently in front of the media on Tuesday and gave a glowing review of starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

“I was extremely impressed with him and what I saw last year,” Maciocia said. “The last few days, I’ve been hunkered down in my office and I’ve watched him play. I’ve talked to coach Jones and we believe that he’s not only the present but the future.”

On Tuesday, the Alouettes and Adams came to terms on a new multi-year extension that will see him stay in Montreal through the 2022 season.

Maciocia added that he believed that Montreal had a bonafide, elite starter for the first time since Anthony Calvillo ran the offence. While the 26-year-old has been around the league for nearly half a decade now, he finally appears to be hitting his peak following a breakout 2019 season under centre for the Als.

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Adams entered the CFL to much fanfare. Following a collegiate career that saw him play at Eastern Washington and Oregon, Montreal acquired his rights from the BC Lions in exchange for a first-round pick in 2017. He’d sign a three-year deal with the Als shortly after.

After being moved to Saskatchewan and later Hamilton over the span of his first deal, Adams would return to Montreal in 2018, signing a new contract with the Als. Following a year where the team bounced between several different signal-callers — including Johnny Manziel — more opportunity opened up for Adams heading into 2019.

He’d be named the Als’ backup behind Antonio Pipkin to open the campaign, however, an early-season leg injury to Pipkin opened up the starting job for Adams.

He proved over that stretch that he was the unquestioned leader of the Als’ offence. Adams finished the year with 3,492 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year while completing 65 percent of his passes. He also added 394 yards and 12 majors on the ground.

Week 10 served as the start of something special for Adams. He threw the ball 52 times against the Calgary Stampeders, completing 34 of those for 407 yards and two touchdowns while adding two more rushing scores in an overtime victory.

Following that outing, he threw for 300-plus yards and at least a touchdown in three of his next four games.

Adams’ biggest game of the year came against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 15. The pivot helped lead a 24-point comeback in the fourth quarter, which was the biggest in Als franchise history. When the final horn sounded, Adams had completed 27 passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns as well as a rushing score.

After leading the Alouettes to their first postseason berth since 2014, Adams was named the team’s Most Outstanding Player for 2019.

Adams is in the unique position of being a player to sign separate three-year deals. He can look back now and reflect on how far he’s been able to come since inking his first contract in the CFL.

“The biggest difference is that I was coming in as a young player at 23 and didn’t know anything about the CFL game and didn’t know what paying your dues was,” Adams said. “I just thought I was going to come in and run the show and I was in for a culture shock.

“I’m kind of glad it didn’t go like that and now it’s like I’m getting that vote of confidence like ‘OK, you’re our guy for the next three years. Lead us and do what you do.’”

Adams one of the pillars for the new-look Alouettes heading into 2020. He and head coach Khari Jones came in and provided a new look, confidence and identity for the Als this past season.

There are already some established leaders on the team — veteran defender John Bowman and reigning Most Outstanding Canadian Henoc Muamba being the most notable voices in the locker room. With those two already being the big voices in the room, Adams is looking to lead the team forward in 2020.

“We laid down the foundation last year. We’ve got the playmakers, now it’s time for everybody, including myself, to take those next steps as leaders,” Adams said. “We need to be more consistent and that starts with me; it starts with the quarterback. I’ve been writing down things and everything this year that I’m going to be doing differently. I’m not going to be that drill Sargeant telling everyone what to do. I’m going to be myself and everybody knows who I am. I’m a fun guy like Kawhi Leonard — shoutout — and I just like to have fun, but I’m a leader at the right times as well.

“I’m going to take those next steps of just being a more vocal leader like a Bo Levi Mitchell or Mike Reilly type of guy in this locker room for this team and for this city.” 

With the off-season came more additions, and the Als made sure to get exactly who they were looking for. First came new ownership in the form of Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern, a pair of Ontario-based businessmen who teamed up to buy the Als.

Just days after taking over, Stern was back in front of the media, this time announcing the hiring of Quebec natives Mario Cecchini and Danny Maciocia as president and general manager, respectively.

With Jones and Adams now under contract for multiple years, the Als have a steady base that they can build a franchise around.

Adams joked that he’ll need to brush up on his French now that he’s sticking around in Montreal. He revealed that when he initially talked to Cecchini over the phone, he greeted him in French.

As for what it means for his on-the-field production, Adams said that the change in the front office and ownership has given him extra incentive to grind.

“It really pushes me to work even harder because we have new owners, a new GM and a new president. Those guys just put their new faith in me with this new contract,” Adams said. “That just shows and tells me a lot and I’m humbled and blessed and thankful.

“I’m just going to come in here and I’m going to keep working.”

The Alouettes will be looking ahead now to the official opening of free agency on Feb. 11. However, locking up arguably the most important piece on the chessboard for the foreseeable future is a massive deal for a team looking to make it back to the playoffs in 2020.

“He’ll be the man for the next few years and the city will know that he’s the man for the next three years,” Maciocia said. “The coaching staff knows that we have someone who can lead us to the next level.

“There’s a sense of excitement here and we’re going to feel it at all levels.”


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