By Mitchell Blair
Rider fans don’t need to ask about the status of Andy Fantuz anymore. The receiver says he has agreed on a contract extension meaning he will be in Rider green for at least another two seasons unless the NFL comes calling.
The 26-year-old was to become a free agent at the end of this season, and there had been rumblings he would like to be closer to home meaning he would suit up for either the Argonauts or Tiger-Cats. Fantuz laughed that off when discussing his extension on Thursday.
“Whoever made up that rumour kind of just made it up and it got blown out of proportion,” said Fantuz. “I have never said that once, but I’ve said I like playing here and if I stay in the CFL, this is where I want to be.”
There is a clause in the extension saying the Western Ontario grad is free to seek NFL employment if he can find it. If he can’t, he says he will sign on the dotted line before CFL free agency begins February 15. Despite the fact, he knows where his CFL future is, he still has a desire to play football south of the border which is something he tried before signing with the Riders after they made him the 4th overall pick in the 2006 Canadian college draft
“I look at myself now compared to what I was in 2006, and I feel like I’m a better receiver, and a better all around football player,” Fantuz stated. “I’m smarter, faster, stronger and I think I’ll be competing against guys coming out of college. I’m still 25 so hopefully I’ll have a good shot.”
Head coach Ken Miller is happy Fantuz is under contract saying number 83 has become one of the faces of the franchise. He also has no problems with Fantuz wanting to pursue the NFL dream,
“Its every kids dream to play in the NFL,” Miller said. “If he gets that opportunity from a team, I wish him well.”
Fantuz, who has 37 catches for 527 yards and three touchdowns this season, admits recent signings by the football team did make this decision easier.
“Those guys (Darian Durant and Luca Congi) are some of my best friends on the team, so it definitely weighed into consideration. We’ve had the same core of guys for a couple of years now. We have a lot of young talent and I like the direction we are taking. I think I’m on a team that will not only challenge for a Grey Cup this year but for many years down the road.”
The top Canadian in the 2007 Grey Cup game is also excited at knowing where his CFL career will continue.
“It’s a good fit for me,” Fantuz said. “I like the team, the community, the organization from my teammate’s right through to the coaching staff. It’s just a great fit. I’m excited to have some direction and know that if I stay in this league that I’ll be playing for the Riders. It’s a great place to play and I’m happy to know I’m here for another couple of years.”