February 15, 2024

Dru Brown embracing team-first approach in opportunity with REDBLACKS

The past three years have been nothing but educational for the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ newest quarterback, Dru Brown.

The body of work with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers since 2021 is nothing crazy, completing 102 of his 153 career passes for 1,484 yards, 14 touchdowns, and two interceptions, but his stats aren’t the reason the REDBLACKS sent a fifth-round pick in the upcoming CFL Draft to the Bombers just for a chance to hash out a contract before anyone else.

Sitting behind three-time Grey Cup champion and two-time MOP Zach Collaros has been valuable for the 26-year-old, who has been introduced to the CFL by possibly the best pivot in the league currently. While tough to sit on the sidelines on gameday, he saw what it takes to be an elite CFL quarterback firsthand.

“You can be upset that you’re not playing, or you can take the time to prepare for when that time does come,” Brown said. “[Collaros] was a great teacher, and he showed me the ropes. How to prepare, and how to do practically everything in this league. There’s only so much you can learn from not playing, but when I did get out there, I got that experience.”

In spurts, Brown got to see the field over the past couple of seasons, with the first real opportunity coming in relief of Collaros in 2022, where he led a game-winning drive over his new team in the first week of the season. In 2023, he had the chance to start a few games, with his biggest statistical game coming in Week 10 against the Edmonton Elks, throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

The on-field reps helped Brown get noticed around the league, but perhaps equally as important is what it did for his passion for the game.

“I was reminded how much I love playing football,” Brown said. “I enjoy the preparation, but when I got the chance to play, it was almost like I forgot how fun that aspect of the game is.”

Part of the preparation for games each week was hearing the message from the Winnipeg coaching staff that no two games are won the same way. Brown has taken that to heart, and is willing to do whatever his role may be each week to ensure his team comes away with the two points.

“It might be an individual doing something extraordinary, or it could be managing a field goal game,” he said. “You want to contribute, but sometimes that’s just not making a mistake, and that’s hard to understand when you’re not out there.”

“One week, you’ll have a huge game, and the next week, you’ll go out and people will say ‘oh, that’s not anything crazy,’ but we didn’t turn the ball over, so we won the game, and that’s all that matters to me. I couldn’t care less about throwing a million touchdowns, I just want to win.”

Coming into the offseason, Brown held out hope that someone would be interested enough in his talents to give him a real opportunity, and when he got the news the REDBLACKS were eager enough to trade for his rights, he was elated.

“I was excited that someone was willing to take a chance, and believe in what I’ve done thus far,” he explained. “I was happy I didn’t have to wait until free agency. I got to know Coach Dyce, Shawn Burke, and Tommy Condell in those three or four days, and it seemed like a great fit.”

Around the country, fans and pundits alike have branded Brown the next “up and coming” quarterback in the league, the same label that gets placed on someone’s shoulders every year or two.

Brown is fully aware of the hype that has been bubbling up around him after his impressive spot starts in Winnipeg, but he isn’t allowing himself to be beholden to the outside expectations that come along with it.

“I’ve heard all of it, but I’m not any of those guys, I’m me,” Brown said. “As much as people love comparisons – and there were a lot of them when people would see me play, and then watch Collaros – but we’re different. I’m not anyone else, I’m me. I do things differently than they do.”

When Brown arrives at training camp in May, nothing is going to be handed to him. Although Jeremiah Masoli and Tyrie Adams aren’t expected to be ready, he will be in fierce competition with Dustin Crum and Jake Dunniway for playing time, along with anyone else who may be added to the roster before camp opens.

Still unfamiliar with everyone in the quarterback’s room, Brown has an appreciation for every one of them. He says the competition will be healthy, but he has no plans to back down.

“Regardless of it it’s stated or not, there’s always competition in the room,” Brown said. “It’s good to have a mutual respect with everyone, and I know I will have that for everyone in the room. The quarterback position is interesting, because only one guy plays, and the only guys on the team who know what you’re going through are the guys in the room.”