Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Isaac Harker adjusting to longer off-season

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Isaac Harker continues to be patient when it comes to the 2020 CFL season. Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

Isaac Harker was supposed to be back on the field with the rest of his Saskatchewan Roughriders teammates on Sunday, but as the coronavirus pandemic goes on, CFL training camps continue to be postponed.

“Obviously, everyone is a little disappointed that we’re not starting on time, but at the same time, I feel like there’s a level of optimism and excitement for when the season does begin,” Harker said.

The CFL season has been pushed back to July, at the earliest, but as the pandemic continues, many fear the entire 2020 season could be wiped out entirely. There’s been no official update from the league since early April, so Harker, and many other players, are being patient.

“We’re just waiting for the people who have researched all their life and know what to do in regards to the situation,” he said. “We’re waiting for their word and obviously we have a lot of brave people working to help fight this and keep everybody safe and healthy.

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“So we’re just on pins and needles waiting for the call to start playing again.”

In his rookie season in the CFL in 2019, Harker appeared in all 18 regular season games, where he completed 44 of 61 passing attempts for 467 yards. In his only start, he led the green and white to a 23-13 win over the Edmonton Eskimos, which secured the Roughriders the West Division title.

After what was a strong first season of professional football, Harker can’t wait to build on what he and his team accomplished last year.

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“It’s really disappointing, especially because I know a lot of people are putting in a lot of really hard work and time into it,” he said. “Especially when you feel like you’ve had a great off-season and you’re ready to show up because you’ve outworked everybody and you’re excited to show the gains you’ve had in the off-season.”

Harker has been living at home in Lebanon, Ind., where he’s had to modify his off-season workouts. Instead of going to gyms and training facilities, he uses a homemade squat rack in the garage, and enlists his younger brother to be a receiver.

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“We’ve been able to get all the workouts we need to get done, it’s just kind of a different feeling when you’re at home by yourself versus in a group,” Harker said. “I’ve thrown to my little brother. We’ve got some gloves so he doesn’t tear up his hands too bad.”

Harker has also been keeping his nose in the playbook, which is brand new this year, after the Roughriders hired offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas in January.

“I’ve just been digging into his offence as much as I can, just trying to learn the ins and outs of it and master it,” Harker said. “There’s a lot of tempo and my favourite part is that every play seems to have an answer.

“If your film study is on point and you know what you’re getting from a defence, there’s always something in each play that you can get to that will be positive for the team.”

And hitting the books and finding answers is something the 24-year-old thrives on. Before he embarked on a football career, Harker earned an undergrad degree from Indiana State and a master’s degree in mineral and energy economics from the Colorado School of Mines.

And while questions remain around the future of the CFL at this point, Harker’s dream to continue his football career hasn’t wavered.

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“For me, football is my number one passion and that’s all I want to think about and do,” he said. “I’ve been trying not to think about other jobs to get, I’ve just been hoping that this comes through soon so we can get back to normal football.”

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