Veteran quarterback Shiltz prepared for new challenges with Stampeders

Matt Shitlz has reportedly agreed in principle to a one-year deal with the Calgary Stampeders. (CP/Christopher Katsarov)

Different team, different city, same approach for Matt Shiltz.

The 31-year-old quarterback signed a one-year deal this month with Calgary. The Stampeders will be Shiltz’s third team in just his seventh CFL season following stops with Montreal (2017-19, 2021) and Hamilton (2022-23).

“I think if you talk to any pro, regardless of where they are in their career, what they all strive for is to find a place to call home and settle down,” Shiltz said during a telephone interview. “But at the same time it’s professional football and you know what you sign up for when you take that leap, especially to come to the CFL.

“I’d love to have that sense of security, but at the same time, you have to keep on showing up every day until you get that. And then show up even more when that opportunity does come.”

The six-foot-two, 205-pound Shiltz has predominantly been a backup in Canada but he started seven regular-season games and a playoff contest while with Hamilton. Last season, he appeared in 11 regular-season games (three starts, winning two) while completing 108-of-161 passes (67.1 per cent) for 1,556 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions — all career highs.

Shiltz, of St. Charles, Ill., also rushed 23 times for 160 yards (7.0-yard average) and a touchdown. His attempts and yards were also career highs.

Shiltz started Hamilton’s 27-12 East Division playoff loss to Montreal, completing 13-of-23 passes for 144 yards and an interception before giving way to veteran Bo Levi Mitchell.

In Calgary, Shiltz is expected to back up incumbent Jake Maier. But like he did in both Montreal and Hamilton, Shiltz will prepare daily as if he’s the Stampeders’ No. 1 quarterback to ensure he’s ready if opportunity knocks.

“That doesn’t change at all and I kind of have experience with that,” Shiltz said. “It’s about preparing every day like you’re the starter, waking up with that mentality but also knowing there’s a fine line with balancing that in the locker room with the incumbent.

“I’ve always showed my respect and want to support Jake or whoever is starting with 100 per cent of what I’ve got because that’s who I am.”

The six-foot, 227-pound Maier led the CFL in completions (363) and pass attempts (578), was third in passing yards (4,244) and was the lone starter to suit up for all 18 regular-season games in 2023. But the 26-year-old was just 6-12 as Calgary’s starter.

The Stampeders finished third in the West Division before losing 41-30 to B.C. in the conference semifinal.

Shiltz, who played collegiately at Butler, has appeared 78 career regular-season CFL games. He has completed 338-of-517 passes (65.4 per cent) for 4,357 yards with 19 TDs and 18 interceptions while rushing for 625 yards on 101 carries (6.2-yard average) and four touchdowns.

“Matt is a highly respected player, consummate professional and a great asset to his team,” said Kenny Kim of Summit Athletes, Shiltz’s Florida-based agent. “I expect Matt to come and compete at the highest level this season.

“He’s a terrific person and someone who’s always a pleasure to work with.”

Shiltz said there were many reasons why he signed with Calgary. The franchise has traditionally been a contender, having reached the CFL playoffs 18 straight seasons — the longest active streak.

Head coach/GM Dave Dickenson being a former CFL and NFL quarterback didn’t hurt, either.

“I think (former quarterback being the head coach) is a great thing,” Shiltz said. “I think they understand what comes with the position, on and off the field.

“They understand the flow of the game . . . that sometimes you need a couple of drives to get out of a funk and they’re going to stick with you. I think they see it, they understand it.”

Shiltz also understands the challenges he’ll face getting acclimated to a new team and new surroundings. After all, about the only certainty in pro sports — football included — is change.

“It’s never easy going into a new locker room and having to make new friends and prove yourself each and every day,” Shiltz said. “But I like learning a new offence, a new system, new plays and philosophies and seeing how my game fits into that and how it can grow.

“I do feel I can be a legitimate starter on a team and lead an organization. I know that’s not the situation I’m going into now, but as a quarterback, you must have that mentality. You must attack each day with that enthusiasm and excitement that you still have plenty to prove.”

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