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A Southern Californian at heart and former standout at the University of Nevada, Cody Fajardo got his first real taste of Canadiana during last November’s frigid 105th Grey Cup. Once the temperature started dropping and the sleddogs invaded the pre-game festivities, he knew he was about to be part of something special.
“I remember running out for warm-ups and it started snowing. That was the epitome of Canadian football. Snowing, packed and everyone had their huge jackets on,” recalled the Lions’ free agent quarterback signing.
“My Dad came up, it was his first CFL game and as a California guy, he was not prepared. It was the greatest experience of his life. He was getting snowed on and was wearing jeans. He kept trying to pad the snow off his jeans and it just kept coming down. The fact it was such a good game and we won, you forget about the cold.”
Tim Fajardo, a former defensive end at Texas Tech, will no doubt cherish the taste of Canadian championship football elements. The younger Fajardo signed his one-year deal with the Lions on Thursday and will not only provide a decent camp competition with the likes of Alex Ross behind Jonathon Jennings and Travis Lulay but could also prove to be a valuable safety net should Lulay’s return from injury be delayed.
The short yardage specialist scored the winning touchdown in Toronto’s victory over Saskatchewan in the Eastern Final and is now excited to bring some of that experience and knowledge he gained to help his new squad get back to the CFL penthouse.
“It’s a great fit for me and my strengths,” explained Fajardo.
“I love the way both Jennings and Travis play. I want to learn from them and I think the thing that was most appealing to me was to be able to learn from two guys who have played this game at such a high level. Playing and learning from Ricky Ray last year was incredible and I think to continue my transition in the CFL, learning from both those guys will be even better,” said Fajardo.
Like Jennings, the 6’5′, 215 pound Fajardo is good at improvising and using his legs. You might want to say the CFL game is tailor-made for the Anaheim native.
“Size has always been one of my things to use to my advantage, especially when using my speed on a bigger field,” said the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.
“That has really helped me. My first time on a CFL field it was like ‘whoa, I get all of this yardage to run?’ I have fun playing the game when I get to use those strengths to my ability.”
Along with being named to the Honour Roll, Fajardo led Servite High School to a California state championship in his senior year and parlayed that success into the scholarship to Nevada. It was at the Reno campus where he backed up Colin Kaepernick and eventually succeeded him as the Wolf Pack starter in 2011. In fact, those two are the only quarterbacks in NCAA history to finish their career with over 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards.
“It was a lot like being around Ricky and a lot like what I think it will be learning from Travis and Jonathon, being behind a guy that played at such a high level,” said Fajardo of Kaepernick.
“It made my transition at Nevada very easy because I saw how he did it and I knew that was the way it had to be done because he had so much success. I didn’t try to be someone I’m not, which I learned early. I took tidbits from his game, added them to my strengths and it worked out for the best.”
Fajardo’s fiancee Laura played soccer at Nevada. The couple met on campus when he was working a job helping people move in and out of the dorms. She is now off to George Washington University to study physical therapy.
“Before free agency, I told her now that she is finally moving east I would probably and up in the West Division somewhere,” laughed Fajardo.
“But I am glad to be back on the west coast because it will be easier to talk with my family. That was my biggest adjustment, not being able to watch sports on TV until later at night, and I would be getting ready for bed when my family back home was just finishing dinner.”
The baseball fan is also excited to be closer to his beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“I still have an affinity for the 2002 team that won the World Series. I loved Garrett Anderson, Troy Glaus and one of the great closers of all-time, Troy Percival, all of those guys. Those were my favourite days of Angels baseball.”
Make no mistake: football and the chance to win another Grey Cup is his prime focus.
“That’s what I love most about the CFL, just how fluid the league is. Most guys sign one or two-year deals. For me to go from being at the bottom of the spectrum (in 2016) to the best team in the CFL was really cool.”
Just remind Dad to pack the snow pants.