Santos finding a niche in CFL

The new year has arrived, but as far as Ricky Santos is concerned, a repeat of 2010 would be fine.

The former Bellingham High quarterback, who rewrote the record books at the University of New Hampshire, not only was part of the Montreal Alouettes 2010 championship squad, but the Canadian Football League team also rewarded him with a new two-year contract.

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The Alouettes won their seventh Grey Cup by defeating Saskatchewan 21-18 before 63,317 fans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in November – capturing the Grey Cup is the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl.

Santos played sparingly this season, filling in briefly when quarterbacks Anthony Calvillo, Adrian MacPherson and Chris Leak suffered various injuries. However, he was utilized often on short yardage situations on third downs.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder passed for 94 yards and three touchdowns, completing 11-of-13 attempts. He also rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per carry. His longest run was 29 yards.

“Winning the Grey Cup was great,” the 26-year-old Santos said. “And, just before the playoffs, I was given a two-year contract. I’m where I want to be. I love playing in Montreal, I like the system, and I enjoy the city. I know I’m blessed to be one of a few thousand guys to be playing professional football.”

When the three quarterbacks ahead of Santos were injured, he stepped in against the British Columbia Lions for a quarter and dominated the game.

“Calvillo was out, MacPherson was on the injured list, and Leak (a former Florida All-American) got hurt in the third quarter,” Santos recalled. “I came in and went 11-for-13 and passed for two touchdowns to S.J. Green. We lost the game, but it felt good to get an opportunity. The coaches saw that I gave a strong effort and I hope they see me as a starter in the future.”

The 38-year-old Calvillo likely will play another year, Leak is a free agent and MacPherson, who spent nine weeks on the injured list, is aiming for a tryout in the NFL, according to reports in Canada.

“Montreal has now won two Grey Cups in a row,” Santos said. “The players have shown they’re winners, but we’ve got about a dozen free agents, so we’ll see what happens.”

What happened for Santos after the title game on Nov. 28 was a week of celebrations and appearances. Two days after winning the Cup, Montreal threw a big parade for its champs.

“There was a huge parade with lots of fans on hand,” Santos said. “Then there were functions and ceremonies for a week. It was exciting. Two years ago, when Montreal won the Cup, I was with Winnipeg. But, I still got a championship ring and I’ll be getting a second one when our season gets under way next spring.”

Mark Trestman, the Alouettes head coach, met with Santos after the season and let the former UNH All-American know he’s in their future plans.

“The coach said I fit in well and he liked the intangibles I displayed,” Santos said. “He said future playing time depends on what Calvillo does, but he also emphasized that when I played, he saw leadership. I’m excited about the year ahead, but I’m not taking anything for granted. I’ve already been traded once.”

Santos said his ultimate goal in the CFL is for Montreal to win a Grey Cup with him at quarterback.
“In the off-season, I’ll work out in Norwood with my trainer, Matt Helming, and I’ll likely do some substitute teaching in Bellingham,” Santos noted. “And I’ll stay in contact with the coaches in Montreal. Scott Milonovich is my QB coach and he’s been a big plus for me. I plan to stay in good shape. When your chance to play comes, you’ve got to be ready.”

The Alouettes, who originally signed Santos three years ago after he was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs, traded him to Winnipeg midway through his second season. He was waived by the Blue Bombers, then rejoined Montreal when injuries mounted at the start of training camp last May.
Being part of a championship team is nothing new for Santos. He led Bellingham High to a pair of Super Bowl crowns and later played a major role at UNH. Once a fifth-string quarterback, he rose to All-American status and finished his college career with 123 touchdown passes and threw for 13,212 yards. He led New Hampshire to four straight berths in the Division I-AA playoffs – now the FCS – passed for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Hula Bowl and had his number (2) retired at UNH in 2007.

Santos also won the Walter Payton Award as a junior, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy at the FBS level.

By Ken Hamwey/Daily News correspondent

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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