VANCOUVER – With the 2020 CFL Draft just days away, it marks a full calendar year since UBC Thunderbirds alumnus and current Toronto Argonauts quarterback Michael O'Connor embarked on his professional career.
Selected 20th overall by the Argos in the 2019 CFL Draft, O'Connor became the highest Canadian quarterback drafted since Jesse Palmer went 15th overall in 2001.
The historic moment began an eventful first year of professional football for the Orleans, Ontario native who appeared in the Argos' final two games of the 2019 season, throwing his first CFL touchdown pass to Rodney Smith against the Ottawa REDBLACKS on October 26th.
Photo: Toronto Argonauts/CFL
"It was a great time being in Toronto, it was a lot of learning," said O'Connor who finished his first pro season throwing 15/25 for 173 yards and a touchdown. "Going 4-14 was a tough environment to be around at times especially when you know you have the guys that can win on a weekly basis, so it was a tough year in that sense. But personally I learned a lot and it was a blast. It was definitely a lot of fun for me and I'm just looking forward to continuing to improve and build and hopefully we get a season in this year and that'll be a lot of fun."
The current COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench into the CFL's plans for the 2020 season, but amidst the ever-changing and uncertain environment, O'Connor is adapting his preparation while keeping fit and ready for whenever training camp may happen.
"I'm doing a lot of running, a lot of yoga, home workouts and getting creative, just trying to find ways to get ready for the season," said the ever-focussed O'Connor who calls Vancouver his off-season home. "It's too bad what's going on but I think we just have to find ways to work around it and be creative and still get our work in."
Whenever the CFL season does get underway, it will be a very different looking Argonauts squad when it comes to both players and coaching staff. The team has seen a massive roster turnover from 2019 and O'Connor will now be working with a totally new playbook thanks to the hire of former Calgary Stampeder quarterback coach and long-time professional pivot Ryan Dinwiddie.
"We're talking about what a condensed season might look like, what to do in case there's not a season, so there's still a lot of possibilities out there right now and it's changing week to week. I've been talking to (Dinwiddie) about what we're going to be running this year but who knows if we'll be able to run any of that. Hopefully we get a season and we can compete and show the league that we're definitely better than last year."
O'Connor's journey to the CFL has been no accident, helped greatly by his four-year Thunderbirds career under head coach Blake Nill with whom he won a Vanier Cup in 2015.
"Coach Nill has done a great job of bringing in a lot of top quality coaches. Even going back to coach (Steve) Buratto my first two years, he had a lot of experience in the CFL so running a pro style offence with coach Buratto was great. Working with coach (Paul) Orazietti and coach (Stefan) Ptaszek who had experience with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, so I've been very fortunate to have great coaching throughout my career and I'm very grateful for that. Playing the Canadian game, learning what it takes to be successful on the field."
The 2020 CFL Draft takes place Thursday, April 30th where the next crop of top Canadian talent will get their name in lights, hopeful to soon join O'Connor on the gridiron in the not too distant future.
View the full story at https://gothunderbirds.ca/news/2020/4/24/o-connor-looks-back-on-rookie-cfl-season-forward-to-a-bright-future.aspx