MONTREAL — Drew Willy is glad to have another chance to show that he can be a successful starting quarterback in the Canadian Football League.
The 31-year-old beat out four challengers in camp and will get the start when the Montreal Alouettes open the regular season against the B.C. Lions on Saturday in Vancouver.
"You're always trying to prove people wrong," Willy said Thursday. "That's always going to be motivation for you, to have that chip on your shoulder, go out there and play hard and make sure I'm ready to go.
"I put in a lot of hard work this off-season and throughout camp so I just need to keep working."
The Alouettes are coming off a disastrous 3-15 campaign with Darian Durant as the starter and Willy as one of the backups. The Randolph, N.J., native got into 12 games, including two starts. He completed 54 passes for 547 years and one touchdown.
He went into camp in a battle with sophomores Matt Shiltz and Antonio Pipkin, former NFL starter Josh Freeman and newcomer Garrett Fugate and was named to the starting job this week by first-year coach Mike Sherman.
"Getting a full training camp with a team is always key," said Willy.
Willy, on his fourth team in seven seasons, is hardly considered a CFL star, but Alouettes co-owner and governor Andrew Wetenhall is convinced he can win games and become the established starter the team has lacked since Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season.
"We're really excited about what Drew can do on the field," said Wetenhall. "We have built all the pieces around Drew.
"We have great receivers. Great linemen. Maybe the best running back in the league (Tyrell Sutton). Drew Willy is a great football player. He beat out four other guys in camp to win the starting position. He's played in this league and, if it weren't for some injuries in the middle of his 20s, I think multiple people have said he would have been one of the best quarterbacks in this league. So let's see what he can do."
Willy certainly relishes the chance.
He broke into the league as Darian Durant's backup in 2012 but got his first real chance to be a starter in Winnipeg in 2014, when he completed 305 passes for a respectable 3,769 yards but only 14 touchdowns as the Bombers went 7-11.
He suffered a serious knee injury seven games into the 2015 season, then got some starts in Toronto the following year before signing with Montreal in June, 2017.
"He was talking about 2015 before I got hurt," said Willy. "I was playing at an elite level.
"I'm always trying to get back to that level. I feel I've had a really good training camp. I kind of earned that job. It wasn't given to me. It's one of the things I feel proud about, but now I need to go out there and produce for the team."
It will be the first CFL game that counts for Sherman, the 63-year-old former Green Bay Packers coach who will try to get the Alouettes into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm anxious to see how we respond.
"We're playing a very good football team, very well coached, so I'm anxious to see how we fare against that type of team, a very physical team."
Sherman feels defence is the team's strength going into the season, while on offence the coaches are "trying to mix and match pieces, so we'll find out in a game where our strengths and weaknesses lie."
Sherman is not yet ruling out guard Ryan Bomben, who has a hand injury, for the opener.
The Alouettes signed 2017 first overall draft pick Faith Ekakitie, a Canadian defensive lineman who was cut this week by Winnipeg, to a one-year deal. Ekakitie played 14 games last season.