Chris Merchant - Hamilton Tiger-Cats Training Camp
It’s been a whirlwind last 12 months for Western Mustangs’ quarterback Chris Merchant. After putting up gaudy numbers in the OUA regular season leading to a perfect season, he took his game to another level in the postseason taking home Uteck Bowl, and Vanier Cup MVP honours in Western’s historic year. Coming into his fourth year of eligibility, the Calgary native has had a busy summer already, first playing in the Usports all-star game known as the East/West Bowl, and now fresh off of joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a taste of CFL training camp.
This was not Merchant’s first dip into a professional training camp, as he joined his hometown Calgary Stampeders for their training camp last year. Every year, Usports sends a handful of players, essentially as an intern to one of the nine CFL team’s training camps.
Merchant has been impressive in just two years in the OUA since transferring from the NCAA’s Buffalo Bulls. In his first year, Chris threw for 1720 yards and 14 TDs in the regular season, while adding another 515 yards and 4 majors in the playoffs where the Mustangs were ousted by the Laurier Golden Hawks in the 109th Yates Cup.
Merchant followed up his first year at Canadian University with an equally solid effort, throwing for almost 2000 yards, and another 12 TDs in Western’s perfect regular season. But Merchant truly blossomed as a leader in the Mustang’s championship run, as he scored a combined 7 touchdowns between the Uteck Bowl and the Vanier Cup, winning MVP in both games.
After performing on the national stage, it was no surprise to Merchant that he was contacted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to join them for their CFL training camp for the month of May. Although he is the starter for the purple and white, he joined the Tiger-Cats purely on an educational pursuit. Usually having to watch reps from the sidelines, Merchant had to become a student of the game to see where he needs to improve going into his third year with the Mustangs. Something that really impressed Merchant was the speed of the game, namely Hamilton’s starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli who was both accurate and quick with his passes.
Masoli wasn’t the only quarterback Merchant was talking shop with, as Johnny Manziel was also at Tiger-Cat’s training camp as he was just signed to a 2-year contract. Merchant says that Johnny football stayed quiet, as he was just trying to figure out the Canadian game, while trying to fly under the radar with heavy media attention.
In addition to his experience with the Tiger-Cats, Merchant has also been working with newly hired quarterbacks coach Will Finch. Having the opportunity to work at his quarterback development camp has already kicked off a strong relationship between Merchant and Finch. A relationship that Merchant hopes will lead him to making those adjustments in his game to not only help the Mustangs achieve national glory again, but also land him a job in the CFL down the road.
Chris Merchant has become a star for the Western Mustangs, and he never takes a day off when it comes to developing his game. He is aware of the lofty expectations put on him at the quarterback position, and always tries to improve himself as a player, and a leader. Needless to say, the Western Mustangs have certainly found their guy in their quest for back to back Vanier Cup Championships.