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After turning down NFL overtures, Cody Fajardo loving life in the CFL

Cody Fajardo
Cody Fajardo has led the Roughriders to back-to-back CFL playoff berths. (CFL photo)

Former Nevada star quarterback Cody Fajardo has had overtures from NFL teams since his ascent as one of the best players in the Canadian Football League, but he's learned this during his pro career — it's better to play football than to watch it from the sidelines.

"After my 2019 year when I was up for the league MOP, I had about six or seven NFL teams calling me and I committed to the Riders for my contract and I'm one of those people that if I give you my word, I really respect my word and take it all the way throughout my contract," Fajardo said on NSN Daily this week. "There have been some talks and people reaching out to my agent. But, honestly, I like where I'm at. I'm not getting any younger, and I've carved out a little bit of a specialty role where I am one of those guys in the CFL who you could call a superstar or one of the guys that they lean heavily on getting the content out about the league."

In his second season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Fajardo was runner-up for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2019. After COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season, Fajardo is again Saskatchewan's MOP nominee after being one of the league's most productive quarterbacks this season heading into the team's playoff game Sunday.

After a standout career at Nevada from 2010-14, Fajardo signed with the NFL's Raiders but didn't make the team out of training camp. He eventually landed in the CFL, first as a backup quarterback for a few years before rising to stardom in 2019, finally getting a chance to play regular snaps as a pro quarterback.

"At the end of the day, I just want to play football because I don't have very many football games left or years left," the 29-year-old Fajardo said. "And so being the starting quarterback is much better than standing on the sideline and holding a clipboard, even though I'd make more money probably in the NFL. I'm having a great time here, and the CFL has been so great to me and it's a great league. If everybody could just give it a chance and watch one game, I guarantee you you'd become a big CFL fan because of the fast-paced offense, the movement, the different rule changes. But I'm pretty committed to the CFL now. We'll see moving forward, but I'm pretty committed at the time."

Last January, Fajardo signed a two-year contract extension with the Roughriders that carries through the 2022 season and makes him one of the league's highest-paid players. After his phenomenal 2019 season, Fajardo has followed it up with another strong 2021. He is third in the league in passing yards (2,970) and seventh in rushing yards (468) while accounting for 18 touchdowns.

He led Saskatchewan to a 9-5 record this season, good for second place in the West Division behind the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Roughriders are one of six teams to make the playoffs and will host the Calgary Stampeders at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time Sunday on ESPNews.

"It's another red team I dislike," Fajardo joked of the Stampeders. "My high school, Servite, played in their CIF Championship game against Mater Dei this weekend, who is another red team I dislike. Everyone knows how much I don't like UNLV. For whatever reason in my career, my rival is a red team. But it's a good rivalry the dates way back, and they've found a way to best me more times than I've bested them, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity. I finally got my first win over them a couple of weeks ago. I think I was 0-4 against them, and it really was a monkey on my back. So now we have this opportunity to play in front of our incredible fans."

Saskatchewan will host this Western Semifinal contest, something Fajardo is looking forward to given his strong relationship with the community. The Roughriders are known for having some of the best fans in the CFL and have embraced Fajardo since he became the team's starting quarterback in 2019. In fact, he met a couple of kids dressed up as him for Halloween in October, a surreal moment.

"It's been a huge blessing to tell you the truth," Fajardo said. "I don't remember being treated this good since being at Nevada and the fans taking care of me and cheering me on and being excited to be the quarterback for this organization. When you are the guy, it feels a little bit better every time you take the field. So this team has done everything, this organization has done everything to make me comfortable. They've put a lot of talented guys around me that make my job a little bit easier.

"But having the fan base that we have, we're Canada's team, so no matter where we go, home game or away game, our fans show out and it's very loud and rowdy and they like to have a good time. So trying to get them victories and trying to get them home playoff games is usually the goal because they deserve it."

Nevada has recently had a lot of success sending its quarterbacks to the pro level, a list that includes Jeff Rowe and Colin Kaepernick, who played in the NFL, Fajardo, who has excelled in the CFL, and most recently Carson Strong, who is projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 draft. Fajardo said he's kept in touch with Strong to give him advice on what the pre-draft process will be like. Strong is expected to turn pro after his junior season.

"We text quite frequently," Fajardo said. "I send him some texts here and there, just kind of words of encouragement, stuff that I wish other players that had gone through it would send me because sometimes you feel like you're alone in that situation and you're shouldering a lot of the weight. He's going to be coming out with first-round buzz around his name, and I didn't have that. I can't really relate to that, but I can relate to going through the process, going to the Combine, talking with teams, interviewing with teams, throwing for teams and just getting yourself ready for what draft day is supposed to feel like."

You can watch Cody Fajardo's full NSN Daily interview below.

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