Sean McGuire has waited patiently for his first start as a pro.
On Saturday, the 25-year-old backup will get his chance behind centre when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers take on the Alouettes in Montreal in a Week 15 matchup.
The 11-1 Blue Bombers have clinched first place in the CFL's West Division, paving the way for starter Zach Collaros to take the weekend off while giving McGuire valuable experience.
Head coach Mike O'Shea announced the move Wednesday afternoon and suggested No. 3 quarterback Dru Brown may also get some playing time against the Als.
"I'm grateful for this opportunity," said McGuire, in his second full season with the Blue Bombers. "It's awesome how it worked out this year... being a backup. A lot of guys get to play in different ways and, shoot, what else can you ask for — being on the team that's clinched the West and has a (No. 1) quarterback that's healthy and guy you can learn from like Zach? And now be in a position to go out and play and try to win this week for our team."
Winnipeg, which hosts the West Division final at IG Field Dec. 5, has the luxury of resting veterans who may not be fully healthy. Included in that group are running back Andrew Harris (knee), who is not expected to play against the Als, and right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick (hip), who may get clearance to dress after missing three games.
"Sean will get the start for sure," said O'Shea. "So after that... we'll make the rest of the roster decisions (Thursday) when we get more information on how everybody's doing."
McGuire has not started a game since his final college season at Western Illinois in 2018.
He served as Winnipeg's No. 3 man in 2019 and was elevated to No. 2 after the departure of Chris Streveler to the NFL. McGuire has completed four of 10 passes for 72 yards in his CFL career. He routinely runs the Bombers offence on short yardage plays and has eight rushing TDs in 2021.
"However it looks, I want to win the game," said McGuire. "Don't care how it looks, honestly, just want to win."
"I've always liked Zach's creativity — his ability to do things when when plays break down and get outside the pocket and improvise," said McGuire. "I think we do have similarities in that regard. Zach is just such a good guy to learn from and love working with him."
Receiver Drew Wolitarsky said McGuire is completely capable of carrying out the requirements of the job.
"The best thing we can do for him is be in the right spots, be the right positions and make everything easy sailing for him," said Wolitarsky, who is McGuire's in-season roommate. "So just being there for him, supporting him and having fun with him. This is going to be a cool opportunity for him and I know he's pumped."
O'Shea has grown to appreciate McGuire's presence and ability.
"To me, he's got the right demeanour," said O'Shea. "He's calm. He's confident. I think the players in the huddle recognize that. I think he makes an effort with his teammates — you notice it pretty quickly in training camp with him helping guys out, making sure guys are in the right spot and directing guys as guys come back to the huddle."
The decision to sideline Collaros, said O'Shea, has nothing to do with the Most Outstanding Player candidate needing a rest.
"He would be fine going out there and slinging it," said O'Shea. "Every guy wants to be playing, right? They want to get going, so there's a pile of factors that might enter into it."
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Wolitarsky, who hails from Santa Clarita, Calif., loves road trips to Montreal. That is probably due in large part to his parents, John and Audrey, who originally met in Quebec.
"I don't know — maybe it's my parents growing up there," said Wolitarsky. "You know, them sending me good juju before the game. I'm not sure what it is. But yeah, it's always a fun time up in Montreal for me, man. It seems to be a good spot for me and my family is actually gonna be there, too (on Saturday)."
SACK KING? Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who has registered nine sacks this season, was asked if leading the league is an ambition of his.
Heading into weekend action, Jeffcoat is tied with Saskatchewan's A.C. Leonard for second in the CFL and trails only Jonathan Woodard of the Roughriders, who has 10.
"I'm not really worried about it, to be honest," said Jeffcoat. "I really just want to go out there and finish the regular season and keep winning after that."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.