Quarterback Cody Fajardo, above hoisting the Grey Cup at the Montreal Alouettes’ victory parade in downtown Montreal. Photo by Kevin Sousa, courtesy the Montreal Alouettes

Cody Fajardo’s winning formula

  • November 30, 2023

Cody Fajardo always sits in the same pew, at the same 11 a.m. Sunday Mass, at Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Basilica.

The pastor, Msgr. Francis Coyle, confirms that the Montreal Alouettes’ quarterback and Grey Cup MVP is a regular at the historic English-speaking parish whenever he is in town.

He is so much of a regular that when Fajardo brought his dad to Mass one Sunday, he greeted Coyle on the way out of church with the words, “Thank you for looking after my son.” Coyle says that he hasn’t ever done anything special for the Alouette, except to faithfully cheer for the team.

Fajardo gave his pastor and the rest of Montreal something to cheer about on Nov. 18 when he led the Alouettes to an unexpected Grey Cup victory in Hamilton against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Montreal Alouettes defied the nay-sayers and bookies to win their first Grey Cup since 2010, Fajardo hooking up with Tyson Philpot for the winning touchdown with 11 seconds left on the clock. The Alouettes swept through the playoffs with three straight victories, which included a convincing win over the heavily favoured Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern final.

The role of underdog is a familiar one for Fajardo, but it is a title he never had trouble embracing. Back in 2009, when Fajardo was playing football for Servite High School, an all-boys’ Catholic school in Anaheim, California, he led his team to its first State championship in 27 years.

In the lead up to the big game, the then 17-year-old Fajardo told the Los Angeles Times that he liked to be “the underdog so you can surprise a lot of people and turn a lot of people’s heads.”

Fajardo and his team were certainly the underdogs this season. Last summer, Fajardo wasn’t certain he would have a berth on a CFL roster. He had been let go by the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the end of the 2022 season and teams were not lining up for his services.

“This off-season was incredibly tough for me and my family,” Fajardo said in a Nov. 11 interview. “I didn’t know if I was going to hang them up, I didn’t know if I was done, I didn’t know if the team was going to give me a chance.”

The Alouettes’ general manager Danny Maciocia gave Fajardo that chance and the rest is, as they say, history.

In his pre-Grey Cup locker-room speech, Fajardo identified the doubters as a significant motivating factor in the team’s winning-mentality.

“I remember the first polls or preseason rankings that came out, where’d they have us?” he asked his teammates.

“Ninth,” they responded, dead last in a nine-team league.

Fajardo told his team, “I was at home, I was staring at it. I said …. ‘Just watch!’ ”

Fajardo managed to take what he called “a team made up of misfit toys,” a group in which he included himself, mix in a lot of hard work and band-of-brothers mentality and create a winning combination.

Fajardo is unashamedly Catholic. It is the first word he lists to describe himself on his Instagram and X accounts and his post-game interviews are sprinkled, literally, with references to his faith.

When he played for Saskatchewan, he was a regular at Christ the King Parish in Regina, according to Pierre O’Reilly, executive director of Net Ministries Canada.

It was in Regina that Fajardo introduced his signature catch-phrase “sprinkle of Jesus” into his post-game interviews.

The origins of the phrase went back to his time with the B.C. Lions when he said, “myself, and Travis Lulay and Jon Jennings, we actually went to a Catholic church every Sunday, any chance we got the opportunity. We always joked, anytime you threw the ball, and it went off the defenders’ hands, it was a sprinkle of Jesus, because it doesn’t go down as a stat.” 

Fajardo took the phrase, adjusted it and began to apply it to the entire season, the team and the role of God in his life.

“That’s who God is for me; He’s everywhere. And it’s been kind of exciting for me that (the catchphrase) has taken off.”

Fajardo, from his high school State championship days through to captaining the Alouettes to an eighth Grey Cup victory, has been a selfless, gritty leader.

His final words to the team in their pre-game meeting on Nov. 17: “I’m gonna give you everything I got. Win or lose, I love you guys.”

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