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Maier making strides on and off the field

Calgary Stampeders Jake Maier - The Canadian Press

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Jake Maier spent the off-season adding a new element to his game after a disappointing campaign for him and his team. 

The 27-year-old signal caller from California was tied for the second-most interceptions thrown in 2023 and struggled to extend plays outside the pocket as the Stampeders went 6-12.

That inspired Maier to spend a lot of time on the run at his off-season home in Arizona.

“I don’t necessarily mean on the treadmill or running laps or miles,” he said last week during training camp at McMahon Stadium. “I did a lot of change-of-direction, short-burst, speed-type stuff. I did a lot more of that this year than I ever have…I was just more mobile this off-season than anything because I feel it’s an element of the game here that you need.”

Maier wants to be able to extend plays with his feet, similar to the league’s elite quarterbacks like BC’s Vernon Adams Jr. and Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros. 

“The guys that are winning championships up here in this league and making all-star teams and doing all those good things, they have that element,” he said. “It’s something I need to work myself into.”

Head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson and Maier’s teammates have noticed the difference.

“He showed up in the best shape he’s been in,” Dickenson said.

“For the people that think he can’t run, he’s definitely a mobile quarterback,” said receiver Jalen Philpot, who missed all of last season because of injury. “Get ready to watch that this year.”

Philpot also pointed out that Maier’s 15 interceptions weren’t all on his shoulders.

“[The fans] are always going to fall back and blame the quarterback,” Philpot said. “If a receiver runs a wrong route and Jake expects us to be there and he throws it, it’s always going to go back to Jake…it’s not always on Jake. He’s not always making the wrong read that people think.”

The quarterback room in Calgary is very different from a season ago. 

Maier has a new quarterbacks coach in Beau Baldwin after Marc Mueller left to join the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He also has new competition, with the team inking veteran pivot Matt Shiltz to a one-year deal. Maier isn’t fazed by having another experienced CFL arm in the  room.

“Nah, man,” he said, with a smile when asked if he feels added pressure with Shiltz in the fold. “Honestly, I’m sure that’s what people would expect, but…I know where I stand with this organization. I know where I stand with Dave, and I know where I stand with my teammates.”

Maier hosted several Stamps wide receivers at his home for a week during the winter, where they ran plays, worked out, and played golf.

“To see each other in person and run routes and discuss what we see and don’t like as two players on the field, it does a lot for your chemistry,” receiver Reggie Begelton said. “We treated it like a week-long minicamp.”

Philpot appreciated the chance to form more of an on-field connection with Maier. 

“Jake had a great routine,” Philpot said. “He was up early cooking us breakfast. Then we’d go out and have a nice workout session…go back to the house, do a lunch. Then we’d head out to the field, get a nice warmup in, go through concepts and stuff like that from the season, where guys would be [on the field], routes, timing…we’d then get back to the house, get into the pool, and make the body feel good.”

The minicamp was also about bonding off the field.

“He showed us some good local food spots in that area,” Philpot said. “We watched a lot of March Madness, a lot of NBA too.”

Maier took over the starting role from franchise legend in Bo Levi Mitchell in 2022 and is starting to understand how to deal with the public elements of the job. Early in his career, Maier said he’d pay attention to the outside noise on social media and what journalists were writing and saying.

Now, he’s logged off.

“When you first get a lot of attention in this league, you like seeing the nice things that are written about you,” Maier said. “It’s all new, right? It’s like, ‘This is cool.’ And on the other side of that, when things aren’t necessarily going the way you want, there’s all these outside opinions that are formed…I don’t really go on social media that much. I don’t engage in much conversation with any of my friends about any of this stuff.”

Dickenson said he’s happy with Maier’s approach but said there can be value in occasionally paying attention.

“It does feel good to get some validation,” Dickenson said. “You’re working hard…if you need the validation, [social media] is not the place to look for it, but there are some good pieces that you enjoy that are written about yourself or your family, your work ethic, your leadership…Sometimes, it’s nice to at least be aware of that.”

Maier has evolved as a leader in the Stamps locker room as well. He leads gameplan sessions more often and has found his voice for a group that, by its own admission, didn’t live up to its lofty standards a season ago. 

Teammates publicly and privately vouch for him, and feel that with a healthy group of receivers and consistent offensive line, Maier has a lot more to show the rest of the league.

“The way he’s carrying himself this year is just different,” Philpot said. “I can feel the energy. He’s very passionate and ready to make some plays.”