With Drew Tate taking over at quarterback from the beginning this year, the Calgary Stampeders will be a different team. Tate replaces the extremely popular Henry Burris in a move that could establish the team's new QB for the next 10 years.
Other changes include Jon Cornish replacing Joffrey Reynolds full-time in 2012; a move which may produce the next Reynolds for Calgary.
Rick Campbell replaces the aggressive Chris Jones as defensive coordinator and Mike Gibson is the new o-line coach with Chris Sweet moving on to Regina.
Of all the changes in personnel, the greatest challenge falls onto Tate. Optimism that he is for real as a CFL QB is based on one-third of a season and an attitude that is empowering for both himself and others
But Tate has never played a full 18-game schedule as a starting QB. His challenge will come in three areas that will test his durability:
1) Mental Concentration
By mid-August, a football season becomes a grind; there is a constant demand to improve as a player. As a QB, your greatest asset is concentration: to develop a focus to improve and to take responsibility to improve the people around you.
Tate's ability to concentrate through the end of the season will be tested. Can he use every practice as an opportunity to improve? If he does, he will start the season at one level and end the year at a much higher one.
Everything happens in the mind first, the body second. The ability to mentally dominate his environment and the demands of his position over 18 games is a challenge.
2) Emotional Control
When you're a QB, you are by far the most popular person on the football team, and in some cases, the most popular person in the city.
It means you live in two extremes. The first is praise, when all is going well; the second is criticism, when things aren't going so well. Mental toughness is being at your best no natter the environment, but the emotion associated with criticism will test you. It tests your desire, your ambition, and even your courage to take risks when you're on the football field.
Over 18 games, you're going to lose a few – maybe a few in a row – and the people that watch football for a living are responsible to those who pay them to watch football for a living to say what they believe.
Sometimes it is tough to take and not everyone can do it. Week in and week out someone will say something about Tate that isn't a compliment. How you respond to criticism can make or break your professional career. Whether it comes from friends, players, coaches, or media, it is a key challenge for any new 18-game quarterback.
3) Physical Durability
It's obvious that over 18 games, your body is going to take some shots and you're going to have injuries of various intensities.
But one physical challenge that is never looked at enough is lifestyle. Diet, rest, and life outside of football are tested over an 18-game schedule. It is true that in pro football there is a 100% guarantee of injury. But how well you take care of your injuries over the course of a season determines your durability.
I have known many players with great ability but limited durability. Whether it is genetics, or just bad luck, staying healthy is so important because if you play all 18 games in a season, you will improve – you have to, or someone else will take your job.
Almost everything about Tate, both tangible and intangible, says that he is the next good – and maybe great – QB for the Stampeders organization. The only unknown is time.
Practice after practice, meeting after meeting, game after game, Tate has a great support system in former QB John Hufnagel at head coach, former QB Dave Dickenson at offensive coordinator, and even a proven QB behind him in Kevin Glenn. They all know how to rise to the challenge of the 18-game grind, and very soon we will know if Drew Tate can too.