Departing CFL Director of Global Scouting Greg Quick believes he’s served up the talent to make the league better

Over the last 14 months, Greg Quick has perfected the recipe for a CFL Global prospect.

Two parts uncommon athleticism, one part exceptional work ethic and just a pinch of the secret sauce that makes certain athletes rise above the rest in a game situation. Simmer over low heat and serve with a lemon wedge if desired.

“We’ve been the food services department, if you will. We’re serving up these players to our teams and we’re providing them a menu of their ingredients, what they are made up of,” Quick says of his role as the CFL’s first director of Global scouting.

“So if we have a linebacker, here’s his ingredients. If we have a running back, here’s his ingredients. Now it’s up to them to decide which of those people off the menu they’re going to choose to bring to their team or to select in the draft. We’re providing them those resources, we’re providing that menu of players. They can look at their skillset from the combines. They could look at the mental side. We look at the intangibles as well as the tangibles and serve that up.”

Now, like any good chef, he’s going to taste what he’s been serving.

Earlier this month, Quick tendered his resignation to the CFL league office and accepted the position of defensive and special teams assistant with the Montreal Alouettes. The move comes just two months prior to the CFL Global Draft, in which Quick’s first crop of prospects are slated to be selected, but when Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia and head coach Khari Jones approached him with the opportunity to take on a hybrid role with responsibilities in both coaching and personnel, he simply couldn’t pass it up.

“Timing is never perfect in our business, especially in a professional sport that’s operating under the cloud of and in the restrictions caused by COVID. There are limited opportunities,” Quick admits. “As we have diligently pushed the global strategy forward, in my conversations with my colleagues in the CFL they knew at some point I desired to go back to the team side of things. In a perfect world, you would time things out so everything’s tied up in the end, but it never happens that way.”

Even as he steps away from his role in Global scouting, Quick remains excited about the menu of talent he’s prepared for the CFL during his tenure, especially under the circumstances.

It was almost a year ago that the CFL’s traveling crew returned from what would be the final CFL Global combine in Brazil and was greeted by a country just beginning to shut down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since, Quick has faced previously unanticipated challenges. Plans for a year of in-person scouting around the world were kyboshed and the 2020 Global Draft became a moving target, eventually being pushed to 2021 after the cancelled 2020 CFL season. Quick and his team quickly went virtual, leaning on their partners in federations across the globe while they evaluated from afar.

“We’ve become librarians in a way, looking at every piece of documentation on athletes around the world to try and find those 22 to 26 year old athletes that may be able to come in and play in the CFL,” Quick says. “We’ve generated hundreds and hundreds of leads over the last year.”

Those leads will all come to fruition on April 15th, when 36 global players will be selected from the assembled player pool in a four round draft. It will be the second class of international talent to enter the three down league and features a much deeper, more thoroughly evaluated crop of player than the first time around.

In 2019, German defensive end Thiadric Hansen emerged as an impactful contributor with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and produced one of the biggest highlights in the team’s Grey Cup victory, but the depth of contributions beyond Hansen were questioned by many around the league. Quick insists those questions will be answered in a big way in 2021.

“We have quality backups, as well as guys who are going to challenge to be players on the field and going to make the same kind of differences that Thiadric did. We had a player that changed the game on special teams, now we are ready for the next step in 2021 and I believe we have that talent,” Quick says about the players available for selection in April.

“We have those players that are going to make a difference on offense and in the kicking game, those kickers that are going to help teams and those offensive players that are going to score points. The defensive players that are going to have an impact and make a disruption in the game that leads to success. So when you’re talking about talent, yeah, it’s there. Not talent that’s going to push the bottom, but I think talent that’s going to push the top of our league up and going to improve the game for our fans.”

Greg Quick watching hopefuls at CFL-Italy Global combine – photo Manuela Pellegrini

Quick himself has several players he’s particularly excited to see hit the field next season, but he’s keeping that information close to his chest. That isn’t because he’s saving his insight for the Alouettes, but because competitors for talent have already begun to poach from the CFL’s program.

“We are now in competition for global talent with the only other truly professional league in a world, which is the one down South,” Quick says, refusing to name the NFL out loud.

When the NFL announced its 11 selections for this year’s International Player Pathway Program, six were players already on Quick’s prospect list, including Japanese running back Taku Lee, who had been touted by commissioner Randy Ambrosie as the CFL’s next potential Global standout. The other players were outside his scouting purview for one reason or another.

On one hand, those selections validate the process the CFL has undertaken, but Quick isn’t eager to lose more prospects by hyping up specific players publicly.

“We have a greater knowledge of the game of global football than those down South. I want to protect the global strategy and protect the intellectual property that we have gained in the last 14 months, and ensure that those players coming into our draft will have the opportunity to move from our draft onto a CFL roster,” he explains.

“We’re going to keep it behind the curtain a little bit to make sure that the best players in the world end up in the CFL.”

From the first day he began work on the global project, Quick has operated with the goal of discovering a player that could end up being a determining factor in a CFL game. He believes he’s found athletes that can step up when the CFL truly shines, those final three minutes at the end of a game, and change an outcome.

It’s a skillset he’s seen time and again from players in the league, both American and Canadian, who possessed an innate ability to raise their standard of performance once given the opportunity. Quick cites former Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Rob Bagg as an example, an undrafted Canadian who took every opportunity and worked to become one of the league’s best. The next Rob Bagg will come from further afield.

“That’s what we do in the CFL. There is great coaching,” Quick says. “Yes, there are great general managers that are evaluators of talent, great personnel scouts that I’ve worked with on both sides of the border, but here we grow talent. We develop talent in the CFL, we’re not just reliant on having a finished product.”

Greg Quick instructing a player during the CFL-Sweden Global Combine Photo: Jonas Domfors

Quick will be the one in that role next year, helping to develop the Global players he hand-selected into impactful special teamers for his new club. Looking back on the experience of the last year, Quick thinks that CFL 2.0 has withstood its biggest test and emerged stronger for it.

“I think the pandemic has proven to us over the last year that this strategy has the momentum, it has the fuel, and it has the value to be sustainable even through the worst of times,” he says.

“As we come out of this and we move into what I believe is going to be a very exciting 2021, I think it has the potential to continue to blossom and not only drive advancement for the CFL, but drive the game of football globally.”

He intends to continue to be a part of that process in any way he can be going forward. Quick commends CFL leadership and their global partners for continuing to push forward in the face of countless obstacles and believes the remaining team of global scouting coordinator Lawrence Hopper, Associate Vice-President of Football Operations Ryan Janzen, and President of Football Operations Greg Dick are up to the task of continuing that process.

As optimistic as he is about the future of the global program, Quick knows more work is needed and he hopes the talent in this years crop of Global players gives critics pause.

“It’s a continued battle. I don’t want to paint a picture that everything is rosy and untattered. There are challenges and there are those in the CFL world that are not sure,” he admits.

“There’s questions, there’s uncertainty, but professional sport is slow to adapt at times. What we’ve learned time and again is you have to have the courage to adapt. You have to have the courage to move forward, even in uncertain times. I think the CFL is doing that. We’re going to have to push the momentum and we’re going to have to sell those that don’t buy-in, but there’s always going to be naysayers.”

Greg Quick has prepared the menu, but the dishes will stand for themselves.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.