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SIZE DOESN’T MATTER?: ‘Houdini’ looking to bring excitement to Ottawa Redblacks

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Not too long ago, the quarterback they call Houdini was being paid a few hundred dollars a week to play indoor football, waiting for an opportunity at a higher level, hoping the decision makers wouldn’t blame him for his cut.

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Sometimes the body of work is too good to ignore. So the Ottawa Redblacks, faced with a need for quarterbacks with the retirements of Duck Hodges and Taryn Christion, signed Tyrie Adams last month. Adams, who was finishing his second season with Salina Liberty of the Indoor Football League before signing with Ottawa, wrapped up rookie camp with the Redblacks on Friday and is looking forward to the days ahead. Although he is 6-foot-2, he also weighs 185 pounds, which is not the bulk some teams are looking for.

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“I guess (the only hurdle) I haven’t overcome yet is my weight, I’m an undersized quarterback,” Adams said. “It’s a blessing that Ottawa bet on me. As long as I show that I can progress – doing the readings, getting on the ground when I’m running and not hurting myself when I take a hit – that’s what’s going to put me on top. The barriers are going to be there – either you cry about it or you keep moving forward. A lot of people (talk about) COVID, (and maybe that’s why I didn’t get drafted into the NFL). It’s not COVID that didn’t get me drafted, it’s me that’s undersized.

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Last year, he took a job coaching running backs at Dodge City Community College. It wasn’t that he was turning his back on his playing days; it was something nice to add to his resume.

“(Training) was always second to me,” Adams said. “I wasn’t ready to hang up my cleats. I could have just said, ‘No, I’m going to go to work or train and wait for the season to come’, but I wanted to have that on my platform because I knew coaching would be in the future. People who knew me were telling me it wasn’t worth it (to keep playing), ‘You can go do a desk job, bring in some money and settle down.’ It’s not like they say to me, ‘No, you can’t play, you can’t do it.’ They just felt it was taking too long. They wanted what was best for me. I have always been confident in my abilities and my support system.

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Adams, who turns 25 next Thursday, had a stellar career at Western Carolina University, where he became the all-time leader in passing yards (8,978 yards), passing touchdowns (64) and total offense (11,525 yards). Maybe, while he’s wearing a Redblacks uniform, he’s got some Houdini-esque tricks up his sleeve.

“I got this nickname trying to play in a system and then something crazy happened in a game (with the Liberty),” Adams said. “We were using a fake screen. But my offensive line only heard the screen. So you can imagine, I fake the screen…and the whole D-line is in my face because the offensive line thinks it’s a screen and doesn’t block them. (Defensive linemen) were trying to knock me down. Everyone thought I was tackled, but I put my arm down, stayed up, cut and then threw the ball to my receiver. He took it for a touchdown.

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The nickname doesn’t fully explain his game, however. Adams says he plays in the system; he’s a pocket passer.

“I love the Houdini name,” he said. “I wish I could show people more – what they want to see. But I’m only going to make these games when they need to be made.

Ironically, Adams is friends with quarterback David Moore, who signed with the Redblacks a week ago.

“We already knew each other,” Adams said. “When he was at (University of) Memphis, he hit me up on Instagram because they were playing Mercer University and we had just played them. He asked me for advice. We’ve been close ever since. He congratulated me when I signed. And then I saw he was coming, like two days before I arrived. We help each other on and off the field and then we go and compete.

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A first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2021, Deshawn Stevens transferred from the University of Maine to the University of West Virginia. He hoped that greater visibility would provide him with an opportunity in the NFL. This does not happen; after weighing his options, Stevens signed with the Redblacks last week.

Stevens, a linebacker, had 36 tackles, including 13 unassisted, during a four-game shortened spring season for Maine in 2021. With COVID wiping out the team’s regular schedule, it was frustrating for Stevens, who ruptured his Achilles in 2019. He had 12 tackles in 10 games at West Virginia. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, he will get a glimpse of the defensive line in Ottawa.

“I’ll play wherever it’s open to me,” Stevens said. “Right now it’s a learning experience. I’ve been a linebacker for most of my career, so playing D-end is an adjustment. But it’s exciting.

Growing up in Toronto — he spent three years at Don Bosco Catholic High School before joining Kent School in Connecticut for his senior year of high school — Stevens has seen plenty of CFL games and is very familiar with the Canadian rules. So now it’s full steam ahead.

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