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Maier finding his voice as a franchise quarterback

Jake Maier Calgary Stampeders Jake Maier - The Canadian Press

Jake Maier is finding his voice as a leader during his first training camp as the Calgary Stampeders’ unquestioned starting quarterback.

The third-year University of California, Davis product has taken over the role from franchise great Bo Levi Mitchell, who signed in Hamilton following Maier’s ascent to the starting role last season.

“That’s been really fun, just to have that ownership of the situation I’m in,” Maier said ahead of Thursday’s preseason finale against the BC Lions. “It’s been really refreshing. It’s been a joy every single day.”

The 26-year-old Maier acknowledged he’s had greater responsibilities right from the start of training camp but said his approach to the game hasn’t changed.

“The only change now is that my leadership has grown within the locker room, on the field, with the coaching staff,” he said.

Maier took over the starting job from Mitchell in Week 11 last season, ending the year with more than 2,500 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Calgary went 7-3 with Maier under centre in the regular season and he started the West Semifinal, which Calgary lost 30-16 to the Lions.

“You’ve got to be authentic and be who you are, which is easy for him,” head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson said when asked about Maier’s increased confidence as a play-caller.

Dickenson was once in Maier’s shoes as an American quarterback looking to make his mark in the CFL. He entered the league in 1997 and three years later was the league’s Most Outstanding Player. Dickenson led the Stamps to the 1998 Grey Cup.

“Just being more vocal. Good practice, bad practice, keeping people focused on what’s important and the little things, and just understanding the selflessness,” Dickenson said of Maier’s maturation. “The quarterback is where you take a lot of credit, obviously a lot of blame too, but making sure everyone feels like they’re a part of the group.”

Teammates have also noticed the difference in Maier.

“The biggest change is being more of a voice in the offence,” veteran receiver Reggie Begelton said. “He knows he has to take over that role and I’m here to help as well, as is [receiver] Malik [Henry] – we have everyone on the offensive line and members on the defence. As a team, those key members have to be out and take the coach’s role.”

“I’ve definitely seen him change and take this leadership role and run with it,” Henry said. “He’s always giving us tips, always feeding us his knowledge and what he thinks, so we’re all on the same page.”

Maier took the initiative to host a handful of receivers in California during the off-season where they threw, worked out, and bonded off the field.

“It definitely meant a lot, to be able to go out and throw with Jake and Jalen [Philpot] and Tre [Odoms-Dukes] to build camaraderie and spend time together,” Henry said.

For Henry, the off-field moments together were as important as the training sessions.

“We went out for dinners, and we went out to watch a movie,” he said.

Despite moving on from a face of the league to the lesser-known Maier, the Stamps intend on competing for the Grey Cup this season.

The team has the best offensive line in the league and several high-level players, including last season’s leading rusher Ka’Deem Carey and veteran kicker Rene Paredes.

Even in May, their sights are set on Hamilton, the host city for this year’s championship game in November.

“This is a players-run organization,” Begelton said. “If we want to be holding up that trophy at the end of the year, we are responsible to make it happen.”