August 2, 2018

O’Leary: Thursday’s dueling QBs have unconventional connection

At some point on Thursday night, Trevor Harris will look out across BMO Field, see McLeod Bethel-Thompson and think about how crazy this game can be.

“I met him in 2011. We played against him in Arena, but I’d never talked with him,” Harris said on Wednesday, shortly after the Ottawa REDBLACKS had arrived in Toronto, where Bethel-Thompson will get the first start of his CFL career, with the Argos.

“Then in 2012 I played with him in the UFL.”

They spent a short time together on the Sacramento Mountain Lions, just two quarterbacks looking for some way, any way, to build a professional football career. By that time, Harris was just a few months from finding his way to the CFL, signing with the Toronto Argonauts in 2012. Bethel-Thompson’s journey had only started to take him all over the map.

After graduating from Sacramento State in 2011, he’d become a SabreCat and a Mountain Lion in the Arena League. In a five-year span with NFL teams, he’d be a 49er three times; a Dolphin and a Viking twice and a Patriot and an Eagle once. In 2016, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers signed him. He was cut a month later.


> Preview: East rivals clash as Argos host REDBLACKS
> Watch: Bethel-Thompson poised in prep for first start
> Thompson’s long football journey leads him to Toronto
> Buy: Argos, REDBLACKS Week 8 Tickets


“I have jerseys. I have helmets, things here and there,” Bethel-Thompson said of the mementos from the ride that the game he loves has given him.

“I have bits and pieces, especially from teams that I stayed with longer. It’s been a good journey.”

It can also be a deflating journey. Both Bethel-Thompson and Harris have crossed paths with plenty of other hopeful quarterbacks over the years and seen it not work out.

Bethel-Thompson wondered if he’d be one of those quarterbacks over the years.

“Of course,” he said. “Every time you get cut. I think I was cut 11, 12 times, in the NFL being signed and cut, signed again. Of course. It creeps into your mind, for sure. I think it takes a level of insanity and a level of obsession to keep it going. I think I’m insane enough to say I’m still here.”

Just about every quarterback in that situation will be tested.

“I was shut out of an NFL contract because of the lockout (in 2011),” Harris said.

“My arena team cut the entire team and used a replacement team in 2012 because they thought the players were going to strike, so they cut everyone and replaced them.

“In 2011, we cut the season three weeks short because the owner said he wasn’t sure if he’d pay the players or not. It’s your love of football that keeps you rolling.”

Bethel-Thompson hasn’t had much of a chance to show what he can do on a CFL field. He got into six games and appeared in two last year with minimal stats, but coach Marc Trestman has spoken highly of him since training camp opened this season. The door may not have opened if the Argos weren’t struggling, tied for the league’s worst record with Montreal at 1-5. Trestman decided to sit James Franklin after last week’s loss to Winnipeg.


“I don’t think there’s anyone here that’s not excited for him to play and I think everybody here to a tee thinks he’s deserving of an opportunity,” Trestman said.

“That’s what he’s getting (Thursday) night and hopefully the team will rally around him and will play…a clean football game, play consistent football, collectively take care of the football and go get it as well.”

“It’s good that he’s getting his opportunity,” Harris said. “It’s fun when guys that truly do love football grind their way through a lot of no’s and they finally get their yes. I’m rooting for him to do well, but not too well tomorrow.”