QB Index: Vavra sees great opportunity for Rourke

The QB Index is a weekly power ranking of quarterbacks across the CFL, voted on by CFL.ca staff. The ranking reflects recent performance, historical value, statistical indicators, team success and overall on-field evaluation.

TORONTO — When Greg Vavra looks back on his career, both at the U SPORTS level and his five-year stay in the CFL, the first thing that comes to mind is the joy the game brought him.

“It has just brought back into focus many years later, how much fun I had when I was a young man,” Vavra said this past week, as he was about to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

In 1983, Vavra won the Hec Crighton trophy and quarterbacked the Calgary Dinos to the Vanier Cup. That led him to that five-year CFL stay, which saw him suit up for Calgary, Edmonton and BC, before he retired at the end of the 1988 season.

It’s his stellar time at the U of C that had him Hamilton-bound this past weekend.

As a Dino, he set the Canadian university single-game passing yards record, throwing for 627 yards on Oct. 7, 1983 against the Saskatchewan Huskies. He threw a then-record 2,823 passing yards that season and made 611 of 1,200 passes in his U SPORTS career, for 8,401 yards and 63 touchdowns; both the yards and passes were national records upon his graduation.

Now, almost 40 years after that incredible season, Vavra is a hall of famer.

“I really didn’t have an eye on any of this, even a CFL career,” he said. “I was just playing in the moment, having a good time. My biggest motivator was to play on a team and be part of a team and I certainly was able to do that all along the way.”

» Ferguson: Deciphering QB decisions
» Checking Down: News and notes from Week 3
» See Nathan Rourke play on Saturday: Argos at Lions

QB INDEX JUNE 23, 2022
Ranking Name Team Last Week Movement
1. Zach Collaros WPG 1
2. Jeremiah Masoli OTT 2
3. Bo Levi Mitchell CGY 4 +1
4. Cody Fajardo SSK 3 -1
5 Dane Evans HAM 8 +3
6. McLeod Bethel-Thompson TOR 5 -1
7. Nathan Rourke BC 7
8. Trevor Harris MTL
9. Nick Arbuckle EDM 9

Vavra has seen a similar joy in the work that Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke is putting in with the BC Lions. Rourke’s Week 1 showing against Edmonton — he was 26-29 for 282 yards with three touchdowns and added two more on the ground while rushing for 78 yards — captivated fans across the country and has reignited the hope of a homegrown pivot being an impact player at the CFL level.

“I watch the Canadians now and I root for the Canadian quarterback just like everyone else,” Vavra said.

“(With Rourke) I look at it from a different perspective. Nathan’s getting an opportunity. He has some physical skills. But what I really appreciated about watching him (were) two things. One is (Lions’ head coach) Rick Campbell, obviously has an open mind. He’s carrying two Canadian quarterbacks on the roster this year.

“So Rick is an open-minded coach and I thought his offensive coordinator (Jordan Maksymic) put him in great positions. I don’t think he made any miraculous throws. The offensive philosophy was excellent and they got guys open and he made the throws, he’s very accurate passer.

“The other thing was, I thought his offensive line did a great job of protecting him. I hope it continues for him. He seems like a great person that has a skill set and the ability to move around and make a secondary play. I see a lot of attributes in him that should lead to his success. I’m hopeful that it does.”

Greg Vavra admires his bust at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this past weekend in Hamilton (Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca)

Vavra looks back on his time in the CFL and while he didn’t have Campbell as a coach, he did feel like he had his share of supportive coaches that wanted to see him succeed. He listed off Don Mathews, Adam Rita and Steve Buratto as people that he felt were in his corner. In the decades since Vavra was the Canadian quarterback looking to stick at this level and up until Rourke, not much has really changed.

“Every coach at a certain point in time, they’re doing two things: they’re evaluating talent and they’re putting their best foot forward. Every coach wants to win,” Vavra said. “It’s just, don’t come at it with a predetermined judgment on Canadian, American or anything else. Throw him on the field and let the results speak.”

Canadian pivots Michael O’Connor and Tre Ford, with BC and Edmonton, respectively, got on the field in that Week 1 meeting. Vavra pointed out that it’s clear that Canadian QBs still need more training and that Rourke may not be immune to that this season.

“I played with a lot of quarterbacks that got more than one shot,” he said.

“It doesn’t always work out for a young quarterback coming out of college. The game is different. It just seems like some of the teammates that I had, got opportunity after opportunity because the coach just believed in the potential and they don’t always have the same view of the young man that is Canadian.”

The comment system on this website is now powered by the CFL.ca Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!