Rookie quarterback hopes to bring a strong pedigree and lightning speed to the Gaels’ backfieldBy Amrit Ahluwalia, Sports Editor, The Journal, Queen’s University, May 26, 2009
Justin Chapdelaine has a storied family background, but he’s forging his own path to greatness.
The rookie quarterback, starting at Queen’s in the fall, is coming off one of the most successful high school careers imaginable—passing for 1,827 yards and recording 21 touchdowns last season alone, being named a provincial all-star in his native British Columbia and leading the W.J. Mouat Hawks to the provincial final.
Athletic success runs in Chapdelaine’s family. His father Jacques is the receiving coach of the CFL’s B.C. Lions and his mother Kim was a Canadian international track and field athlete. His older sister Kaela has been on the Canadian national basketball team for the last six years and his older brother Matt will be joining him at Queen’s next year after two years with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“I think that what they’ve achieved makes me want push myself harder and exceed their achievements,” Chapdelaine said in an e-mail to the Journal. “I don’t really think about my family’s successes when I play. I only really think about my goals and what I have to do to earn them.”
Chapdelaine said basketball was his favourite sport in his younger days, but watching his brother win the British Columbia championship four years ago inspired his switch to football.
“I really got into football after my brother and the 2005 W.J. Mouat Hawks won the provincial championship,” he said. “I vowed that I would do the same. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I had an amazing high school football experience.”
In B.C., high schools play American-style football. Although it’s only marginally different from the Canadian game, there’s a drastic difference in the required strategy and skill-set. Chapdelaine said the switch from the American game to the Canadian one shouldn’t impact his game negatively.
“I did play American football [at W.J. Mouat], however I also played Canadian at [the Salisbury Composite High School] in Edmonton, Alberta and my father is a CFL coach so I understand the concepts of Canadian football,” he said. “I strongly believe that Canadian football is slower due to the wide field but now I’m playing in the CIS so I might be proved wrong.”
Chapdelaine said Queen’s campus, coaching staff and recent successes attracted him to the Gaels.
“The coaching staff made me feel comfortable and they treated me as if I were their son.” he said.
With All-Canadian Gaels quarterback Danny Brannagan entering his last season, Chapdelaine said he hopes to learn enough that he can take the reigns in his second year.
“I didn’t feel comfortable going to a university and stepping in as the number one, so now I can get a year of learning from a senior who has extraordinary knowledge for the game but I also hope to take a few snaps in games,” he said. “I hope Danny and I can create a good competitive relationship with the drive of winning.”
With brother Matt playing wide receiver for the Gaels next year, Chapdelaine said they will be able to forge a strong quarterback-receiver relationship.
“I haven’t played with my brother on the same field since Grade 9 so I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I hope Queen’s fans will get to see sibling chemistry next year and enjoy it.”
Chapdelaine is part of a class of quarterback that Queen’s fans haven’t seen in the past decade or so—he scrambles, a skill he said will get him more playing time than the average rookie quarterback.
Discussing his goals for next season, Chapdelaine was very short with his response.
“My goal for next season is to play and contribute in some way to winning the Vanier Cup.”
Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan said Chapdelaine is an outstanding athlete, but the coaching staff will be patient with his progress.
“Coming in as a rookie, it’s hard to predict what his impact will be,” he said. “I appreciate that there’s a lot of excitement around him, but we have to let him get here first.”
Like Chapdelaine, Sheahan said he’s not worried about the transition from an American-style game.
“He’s more than familiar with the Canadian style of game. He sits across the table every night for supper with one of the icons of Canadian football.”
Sheahan said Chapdelaine’s skills are well-suited to the wider field in the CIS. While he won’t expect anything too soon, he said he’s excited about the young quarterback’s potential.
“He’ll be a big contributor at some point in time—we’re hoping sooner than later.”—With files from Michael Woods