May 022019

Without getting out your cellphones, who are David Watford, Jeremiah Briscoe and De’Vante Kincaide and what do they have in common?

They are not the members of a new boy band, and they are not running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, although it appears most of the rest of the United States is.

Watford, Briscoe and Kincaide are all third- or fourth- string quarterbacks in the CFL, hoping to resurrect glorious high school and college careers that had them a few short years ago the toast of their respective states, and playing in front of  college crowds that would dwarf in size and passion any fan base across the entire CFL.

Long before Watford signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he attended Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia.  Watford was an outstanding athlete who became the starting quarterback for his school team in Grade 10.   The Crabbers had three winning seasons with Watford behind center.  In his senior year his team went 11-2, losing only to the two teams that ended up in the state championship.  Watford didn’t throw interceptions in his senior year, and was ranked as the 29th – quarterback prospect coming out of high school in America in 2011.

Watford committed to Virginia where when he was given the opportunity to play he put up sparkling numbers.  In 2011 Watford barely saw the field, and in 2012 he was redshirted.  In 2013 Watford started and put up solid numbers including 244 completions and five 200-yard games passing. Most observers felt he was on his way.  In 2014, however, Watford lost his starting quarterback job again to a new recruit, and played only a handful of plays behind center.  One game that season he showed his versatility and started at wide receiver.  With only one more year of eligibility Watford was desperate to start again, and as a graduate student transferred home to Hampton University where he tore the league up leading the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in passing yardage and touchdowns with 21.  He was named a second- team MEAC All-American, and Hampton had its first winning season since 2011.

Watford was once again the toast of Hampton, with friends and family hoping for a call in the2016 NFL Draft.  That call did not come for Watford, but in 2017 he caught on as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles as a wide receiver, spending some time on the practice squad until he was waived in 2017.  Watford feared that his football career was prematurely over until the Saskatchewan Roughriders came calling, and Watford spent the 2018 season as the third- string pivot seeing limited service, including the Western semi-final.  With last year’s second string quarterback Brandon Bridge gone Watford will have an opportunity to move up the depth chart in 2019.

Jeremiah Briscoe is the third- string quarterback with the Edmonton Eskimos despite an American high school and college resume that is nearly flawless.  Briscoe was a star at Stratford High School in Dallas, Texas.  In his senior year he threw for 1,863 yards and twelve touchdowns in ten games.  Briscoe was a four-star ESPN recruit, and listed the eighteenth best high school quarterback in America in 2012.  Briscoe received offers from Baylor, Lamar State, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Briscoe, a two- sport athlete, committed to University of Alabama at Birmingham hoping to play both baseball and football.  In his first year at UAB the school cancelled its football program, and Briscoe transferred to Sam Houston State.  In 2016 and 2017 Briscoe had the kind of college seasons that most athletes could only dream about, winning the Walter Payton Award back to back as the best player in Division 1-AA football in America.  In his 2016 season Briscoe threw for 4,602 yards and 57 touchdown passes.  The back to back awards put Briscoe in lofty company as only one other player, Armanti Edwards, had accomplished that feat.  Other winners of the Walter Payton Award have included Bo Levi Mitchell in 2011, Tony Romo in 2002 and Dave Dickenson in 1995.  In 2017, Briscoe was invited to the Senior Bowl where scouts thought Briscoe would solidify his NFL draft status.  Unfortunately for Briscoe he was 1-for 6 in passing.  According to ESPN Briscoe was “routinely sailing his passes over wide open receivers.”  Despite his impressive regular season statistics, NFL scouts present at the Senior Bowl labeled him as “a gunslinger with shaky accuracy” torpedoing his hopes of drawing significant NFL attention.

Like Watford, Briscoe had a brief stop with in Philadelphia that amounted to very little.  In November of 2018 he signed with the Eskimos. He is currently being thought of as “developmental quarterback” with a possible future in Edmonton, as the Eskimos new starting quarterback Trevor Harris is already 32.

De’vante Kincaide, the third- string quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger- Cats, was another product of the Texas high school football factories that produced Jeremy Briscoe, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Matt Stafford.  Kincaide in his senior year of high school, threw for 3,200 yards and ten touchdowns and  ran for 700 yards. Kincaide finished the year as a four- star ESPN high school recruit. Twenty four schools including Colorado, Oregon State, Nebraska and Ole Mississippi recruited Kincaide, each offering full football scholarships.

Kincaide committed to Ole Miss and went off to university in 2013.  In 2013 he was redshirted, and in 2014 and 2015 saw very limited playing time as Ole Miss played its starter and second string quite regularly, but as a third- stringer Kincaide’s reps were restricted to largely practice and scout team quarterbacking duties.  In his third year at Ole Miss, his mother’s health took a turn for the worse and Kincaide began to look for a university closer to his home in Dallas.

Kincaide transferred to Grambling, an all-black institution with a legendary football program.  In 2016 and 2017 Kincaide finally got a chance to start at quarterback, winning the Black College Football National Championship in 2016, and missing a second championship in 2017 by only three points.  In 2017 Kincaide’s statistics were eye-popping.  He threw for 2905 yards, ran for 408 yards and finished the season with an impressive 143.7 Quarterback Rating.

On NFL draft day the phone never rang.  Kincaide committed to the Maine Mammoths of the National Arena Football League in 2018, but only stayed with them for a short time.  June Jones, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach in 2018, had tried to recruit Kincaide as a high schooler to come to Southern Methodist University where he was coaching in 2013.  Their paths crossed again in 2018 and Kincaide was invited to join the Tiger-Cats.  The Hamilton Spectator CFL beat reporters believe Kincaide has a future, but will have to wait his turn behind incumbent starter Jeremiah Masoli.

Regina, Edmonton and Hamilton are a long way from the football hotbeds of the United States.  For these young men, and many more like them, the CFL offers the opportunity they were not offered in the land of their birth to play the game that they love.  It will be interesting to see what they do with the opportunities afforded them, and which one of them might turn out to be the next Dave Dickenson or Bo Levi Mitchell and regain their former glory in this football league so far from home.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm