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Receiver Juwan Brescacin is no stranger to the city of Toronto or its love of sports.
“When you’re doing well as a sports team — and even if you’re not doing well — the fans support you,” he said. “It’s 25 minutes from my hometown, I spent lots of time in Toronto between going to church and playing basketball. There’s just no place like home.”
Throughout his first four years in the Canadian Football League, he’s only known a single organization. However, after signing with the Argonauts during free agency, he’ll be returning to his roots while suiting up as a member for his hometown team in 2020.
Coming out of Northern Illinois University, the Mississauga, Ontario product was regarded as one of the best pass-catchers available in the 2016 CFL Draft. Brescacin managed to slip to the second round, landing in the Calgary Stampeders’ lap with the 15th pick.
“Coming off my college career, I was doubting how I felt about football and I got put into the right situation going to Calgary,” Brescacin said. “They had a winning culture, a great locker room, they taught me how to be successful and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity that the Stampeders gave me.”
The 27-year-old was able to join the Stampeders at the ground floor of their run to three straight Grey Cups, which culminated with them taking home the championship at the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw in Edmonton in 2018.
Along the way, he was able to learn under coach Dave Dickenson, who is considered to be one of the best offensive minds in the entire league.
“I just had the opportunity to learn what it was to be a professional,” Brescacin said about his time with the Stamps. “Whether it was taking care of your body, watching film, knowing the gameplan or playing multiple positions. Coach Dickey is one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around, if not the smartest.
“I have nothing but respect and great things to say about him.”
Heading into the 2019 season, Brescacin was looked at as one of the main targets for Bo Levi Mitchell alongside Eric Rogers and Reggie Begelton. The tall target lived up to the preseason hype to open the campaign, hauling in 11 catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns in his first four games of the season. In two of those outings, he had over 60 yards and at least a major — he also only dropped one of nine targets in those combined contests.
However, his season would take a turn following Week 7, as Brescacin was placed on the six-game injured list with an undisclosed injury. That ailment would keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as he was set to become a free agent on Feb. 11. Even with the league’s new negotiating window opening a week before he hit the open market, talks were minimal for Brescacin.
“It was nervewracking just because I was coming off an injury and you don’t want that to be a reason you’re stuck in a situation you’re not comfortable in,” he said. “It was a wait and see approach because the only team I was talking to was Calgary and those talks only opened up maybe two or three days before free agency was going to start.
“So I really didn’t know anything; I was just rehabbing and training.”
While growing up playing in the Mississauga Football League as a kid, Brescacin was able to get tickets to watch the Toronto Argonauts play at SkyDome. He was able to watch the likes of Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons and Derrell ‘Mookie’ Mitchell tear it up for the Double Blue.
As the free agency window opened, Brescacin received a call from Clemens, the newly minted Argonauts general manager, who wanted him to come home and be a part of the Boatmen.
“I had a long talk with Pinball and he’s an even better person than people give him credit for,” Brescacin said. “From just the 45-minute conversation I had with him, he had me really excited to join the team and he really had me believing in the direction the team is heading.”
Brescacin was the headlining piece of the Argos’ strategy in the open market, which saw the organization bring in nine Canadians in the first week of free agency.
Brescacin is just one of four National receivers set to make an impact for the Argos in 2020. Natey Adjei signed with the team ahead of free agency after being released by Edmonton, Llevi Noel re-upped with the team and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. — the team’s third-round pick in 2019 — looks ready for a bigger role with the team heading into his sophomore campaign.
Toronto made sure to set itself up in a solid position with National talent, as they’ll have some ratio-breaking individuals that will lighten the load.
Signing with Toronto signals a reunion for Brescacin in more ways than one. He’ll be working under head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, who was the quarterbacks coach for the Stamps during Brescacin’s tenure there.
He’ll also be teaming up again with fellow pass-catcher DaVaris Daniels. The 27-year-old Daniels played alongside Brescacin from 2016-18 before making his way to the Edmonton Eskimos last off-season.
The pair of receivers will do their part to help aid the Argos in a turnaround following two consecutive 4-14 campaigns in 2018 and 2019, respectively. While they need to get back to showing constant improvement, Brescacin knows that anything can happen.
“I think at first, you just have to look for improvement. In the CFL, we see teams that have had terrible seasons and come back and been playoff teams in a matter of a year,” Brescacin said. “The great thing about the league is that teams can come out of nowhere and surprise people. So I think in football, you don’t really know what your team is going to be like until you get to camp and get in preseason games.”
As for Brescacin, he’s training alongside Daniels in Chicago — the pair even live in the same building. Playing alongside familiar faces in Toronto, he’ll be aiming to set new career-highs with the Double Blue.
“I’m feeling great and I feel like I’ll be back better than I was,” he said. “You’re coming off injuries so you have to prove yourself again and teams may sell you short coming off an injury — even though I was close to full strength at the end of the season. I just felt like Toronto saw me for who I was as a player.
“They took a chance on me and I feel like the least I can do is come back ready to go and play the way I play.”