Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Face of the Franchise: Jonathon Jennings Ready to Lead B.C. Lions in 2016

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Face of the Franchise: Jonathon Jennings Ready to Lead B.C. Lions in 2016

Article excerpt

Jennings poised to lead B.C. Lions in 2016


KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Jonathon Jennings waits patiently in one of the end zones as the media begins to assemble following a morning practice at B.C. Lions training camp.

At this time last year, the quarterback might already be in the locker-room immersing himself in the playbook or throwing extra routes to receivers on the field, a little-known rookie trying to find an edge in the battle to earn his first pro job.

Just 12 months later, Jennings is the unlikely face of the franchise.

The Columbus native made the Lions in 2015 before rocketing up the depth chart two-thirds of the way through the season after starter Travis Lulay and backup John Beck went down with injuries.

Jennings ran with his opportunity, demonstrating a superior skillset and veteran poise to keep the No. 1 spot once Lulay was ready to return.

Now with a new three-year contract in hand, Jennings is the presumptive starter at his second camp, but he said the increased scrutiny won't be unlike the high bar he set for himself when no one knew his name.

"There was pressure last year ... and that was to come out and perform," said the 23-year-old. "If you don't perform in this business then you're going home."

Jennings finished 3-3 in his six regular-season starts for B.C., completing 66 per cent of his pass attempts for 2,004 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before getting injured in the club's playoff loss.

Prior to his breakthrough with the Lions, the Saginaw Valley State product had a couple of NFL tryouts and a workout with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, only to be cut each time.

"He's got a tremendous arm, he's athletic, he's smart," said B.C. head coach and general manager Wally Buono. "When you look at all those attributes, you wonder why somebody didn't see that earlier."

The six-foot, 195-pound Jennings was happy with how he progressed in Year 1 with the Lions, but is also quick to add there's plenty room to grow as the club looks to re-energize its fanbase after a disappointing 7-11 campaign that included a fourth straight one-and-done playoff.

"The next step is evolving as a student of the game," said Jennings. …

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