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May 17, 2024

From Notre Dame to the CFL game: Jack Coan enjoying life in Saskatchewan

SASKATOON — More than a year has passed since Jack Coan last passed the football in a game.

Ideally, his 394-day wait will conclude when the Saskatchewan Roughriders face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in CFL pre-season action on Monday (2 p.m., Mosaic Stadium).

“I’m super-excited,” the 25-year-old quarterback said after Thursday’s workout at Coors Light Roughriders Training Camp. “I feel like I haven’t played in a game in a long time.

“It’s good to go through these reps in practice, but it’ll be good to show what I can do in a game.”

When he last appeared in a game, it was with the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas on April 22, 2023. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder completed 34 of 48 passes for 312 yards against the D.C. Defenders, who won a 29-28 nailbiter.

Two weeks later, Coan attended the New York Jets’ rookie mini-camp. He then worked out for the San Francisco 49ers in June of 2023.

In mid-March, he signed with Saskatchewan and prepared to attend training camp alongside returning quarterbacks Trevor Harris, Mason Fine, Shea Patterson and Antonio Pipkin.

“I love it so far,” Coan said with a smile at Griffiths Stadium. “It’s just great to get back out here and play football.

“The coaches are outstanding. They are super-smart. I’m learning a ton. Being surrounded by a bunch of great players has been great as well.

“It seems like a great culture, a great locker room of guys. It has been awesome.”

The same assessment applied in 2021, when Coach was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s starting signal-caller.

“It was an amazing experience — just a total dream come true,” he said. “Being the quarterback at Notre Dame is one of those positions in sports that is just special.

“I never took it for granted and I’ll always be thankful for it. I loved every second of it.”

A second recruiting pitch from Notre Dame resulted in him joining the tradition-laden football program as a senior.

Initially, he had committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame, only to eventually opt for the gridiron game and enrol at the University of Wisconsin.

“Growing up, I was always a huge Notre Dame fan,” said Coan, who hails from Sayville, N.Y. “It was always my dream to play football there.

“Coming from Long Island, there’s not a lot of Division I football players, but there’s a ton of Division I lacrosse players, so I just thought I was going to be like everyone else and play Division I lacrosse.

“Lacrosse recruiting back then happened super-early, so I got recruited in the ninth grade and I committed pretty much right after my visit there. But once I started getting football offers, I knew I wanted to play football.

“I didn’t get offered by Notre Dame for football out of high school, so it’s pretty crazy how it all came full circle and worked out in the end.”

Coan ascended to a starting role in 2019, as a third-year member of the Wisconsin Badgers, only to be sidelined by a foot injury for the entire 2020 campaign.

He then transferred to Notre Dame and started 13 games in 2021, throwing for 3,150 yards and 25 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions.

Most memorably, he threw for a Fiesta Bowl-record 509 yards in a 35-33 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Jan. 1, 2022.

With five TD passes, Coan tied a Fiesta Bowl record that was established by Florida State’s Peter Tom Willis in 1990. Oregon’s Bo Nix threw five scoring passes of his own in the 2024 Fiesta Bowl.

Coan is also in exclusive company as a Roughrider.

He is the fourth former Notre Dame quarterback to join the Green and White, following Frank Tripucka (1953-58, 1959, 1963), Tom Clements (1979) and Tony Rice (1990 regular season; 1991 training camp).

Tripucka was enshrined in the SaskTel Plaza of Honour in 1989.

Clements, a Roughrider for only seven games, entered the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1994 — principally in recognition of his accomplishments with the Blue Bombers, Ottawa Rough Riders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Rice, who piloted Notre Dame to a national title in 1988, dressed for eight CFL games in 1990 but was used sparingly.

As a rookie receiver in 1991, Dan Farthing — who is now the Roughriders’ Head of Strength and Conditioning — caught passes from Rice during training camp.

“You can definitely feel that there’s a lot of history here,” Coan said, “and it’s cool to try to be a part of it.”

The same mindset applied when he joined the prestigious program at Notre Dame.

“I knew how special it was, but I tried not to get too consumed by the pressures that come along with it,” Coan recalled.

“I really just tried to focus on my job because, even my first few games there, I was pretty emotional.

“I was feeling like a dream was coming true, hearing the fight song, going through the tunnel, and all of that. I was trying to lock into what I was trying to do, but at times it was hard because I was so emotional.”

Especially when he heard the famous fight song.

“It was unbelievable — just chills and almost tears at times,” Coan said. “You just feel like you’re in the movie Rudy, in a sense. It was amazing.”

Post-Notre Dame, Coan signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 13, 2022.

Over three NFL pre-season games, he completed 10 of 19 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown, without an interception.

Coan went 7-for-11 for 83 yards against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 20, 2022, when he sported an impressive quarterback rating of 116.9.

With 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he fired a picture-perfect, 27-yard touchdown pass to Samson Nacua to reduce the Lions’ lead to 27-26. The two-point convert attempt was unsuccessful, though, and Detroit emerged with a one-point victory.

Ten days later, Coan was among the Colts’ final cuts.

Now another pre-season audition looms — this time in the three-down ranks.

“I’m really going to try to take it one play at a time and get the ball in the right spots and just compete as hard as I can,” he says. “I’ll just try to do my job on every play.”