TORONTO — Quarteback Brandon Bridge’s talent was too much for Jim Popp to pass up.
The Montreal Alouettes GM selected the Mississauga, Ont., native in the fourth round of the CFL draft Tuesday night. If Bridge elects to play in Canada, Popp said he’ll get every opportunity to be a quarterback, a position traditionally held by Americans.
"Heck yeah, he’s 100 per cent a quarterback and that’s what we want him to be," Popp said via telephone following the draft. "I’ll tell you, if he learns our game and develops, he could be quite exciting.
"He has the body type of a Randall Cunningham or San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, that long, lean, slender body but he can go. He’s got tremendous talent, he’s got a huge, huge arm. He’s just a unique guy."
The six-foot-four, 229-pound Bridge completed 160 of 307 passes (52.1 per cent) for 1,927 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season for the South Alabama Jaguars. Bridge, who has run a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, also ran for 297 yards and four TDs in 11 games last season.
Bridge was invited to the NFL combine in February but was bypassed in the league’s draft. He attended the Dallas Cowboys rookie mini-camp as a free agent but wasn’t offered a contract.
Popp said Montreal’s plan for Bridge would be to bring him along slowly and allow him to learn the pro game. Although he’s Canadian, Bridge wouldn’t count against the Alouettes’ ratio because in the CFL quarterbacks can be of any nationality.
Popp hasn’t been afraid to draft Canadian quarterbacks. In 2001, he used a second-round pick on Ottawa’s Jesse Palmer, who was a fourth-round selection of the NFL’s New York Giants that same year.
In 2012, he also brought former CIS quarterbacks Kyle Quinlan and Kyle Graves to Montreal’s training camp. Graves remains with the Alouettes as a receiver but Popp said Bridge has the ability to play under centre in the CFL. Quinlan is out of pro football.
"Now, he’s raw in a lot of ways but he’s creative, he can scramble and can wing a ball 60-to-70 yards," Popp said. "Everybody is always talking about who’s going to be the Canadian quarterback that actually is on the field playing and has a chance to play.
"If he comes to our league I think he’s the guy who has the chance to do that."
Jonathan Crompton emerged as Montreal’s starter last season and led the Alouettes to the East Division final. Tanner Marsh served as a backup last season but this off-season the Alouettes added former Ticats starter Dan LeFevour and one-time NFL player John Skelton.