Friday, May 24, 2024

Dustin Crum is No. 2 QB for Ottawa Redblacks, but believes in himself

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“I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to improve on. But, for any guy at this level, if you don’t have the self-confidence, you don’t have a chance.”

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For Dustin Crum, the past year has been an emotional rollercoaster ride, with so many twists and turns — and now it’s time to turn the page to another chapter.

A year ago, he went from fourth-stringer to starting quarterback. Now the 25-year-old Ottawa Redblacks quarterback has been pushed back down the pecking order, it’s likely he settles in as the No. 2 guy behind former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Dru Brown.

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Jeremiah Masoli, whose 2023 season was delayed by a leg injury, then ended by a ruptured Achilles tendon, was on the field Friday, but it’s not known when he’ll be ready to go full steam. Tyrie Adams, whose first Canadian Football League season also ended early with a torn knee ligament, is also back, with a still-to-be-determined return date.

Crum is OK with all of that. It’s not so much about where he sits on a depth chart, more pressing is his thirst for knowledge and finding a way to ratchet up a game that looked pretty good when he was thrown into the fire last summer.

Crum, who participated in both days of Redblacks rookie camp, leading into Sunday — there’s no on-field practice scheduled for Saturday — when the team goes into full training-camp mode, is taking it in stride. Show up, put in the work, look to get better.

“We’re all competitive guys,” said Crum, who showed up at camp with a beard. “Every one of us, no matter what position it is, wants to be on the field doing their thing and making plays. That’s the mindset. No matter what the circumstances are, you have to attack it the same way. It can be difficult to maintain that mindset, but it’s also our job.

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“You can’t let the circumstances dictate who you are, you can’t let them affect the attitude you bring every day. No matter what’s going on around you, you have to weather the storm. That’s what can define a professional athlete.

“This feels a bit different (than a year ago). My circumstances changed quite a bit from going into last year, trying to make the team, to this year knowing the importance of contributing to the team at a higher level.”

The numbers don’t tell the whole story for Crum, who performed impressively in 2023, especially given the limited prep work he had.

When he was called on to step into a starting role in the Redblacks’ fourth game, it was overwhelming, yet exciting.

“If you’re not the top one or two guys (at any position), you’re lucky to get two or three (first-team reps) a day,” he said. “Going into that fourth game, I hadn’t played in a pre-season game and I was probably under 50 plays in practice in my CFL career, so there was a lot of learning on the fly, reacting on instinct. I grew in a lot of ways during the season.

“Things fly at about a million miles an hour. You’ve got the (receivers’) waggle going, everybody starts running and you’re trying to see everything at once, versus having that narrow vision and knowing where you need to put your eyes. It’s little things like that which make quarterbacks great in this league.”

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Crum completed 266 of 385 passes for 3,109 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he also threw 12 interceptions. He also had 741 yards rushing, with nine touchdowns, taking plenty of big hits as he tried to pick up extra yards. Opposing defences also blitzed early and often, resulting in too many sacks as Crum held onto the ball while trying to make plays.

With that in mind, Crum spent the off-season dissecting game film and trying to figure out ways he could move his game forward.

“With the blessing I had to play quite a bit last year, hopefully I can accelerate the process,” he said. “Getting that experience, getting to watch the film, you see your strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully we can attack that and I can continue to grow.

“I need to continue to progress with the mental side of the game. You can never stop growing in that. There are some little mechanical details to clean up. Also, I have to try and protect myself a bit better; I took some shots last year and my body got beat up a little. I was really excited when we signed (former Toronto Argos defender Adarius) Pickett, so he wouldn’t be hitting me anymore. He hit me pretty good a few times last year.”

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A look at Crum’s background — he’s a rocket scientist, a Kent State graduate with a degree in Aeronautical Systems of Engineering Technology — suggests he’ll be able to adapt to the scheme from new Redblacks offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell while continuing to take the necessary steps.

“I think I have the self-confidence, the self-belief,” Crum said. “I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to improve on. But, for any guy at this level, if you don’t have the self-confidence, you don’t have a chance. Even if you’re not there yet, if you don’t believe you can reach that point, it’s tough to maintain the drive and motivation to get to that level.”

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