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Not long ago, the quarterback they called Houdini was getting paid a couple of hundred bucks a week playing indoor football, waiting for an opportunity at a higher level, hoping decision makers wouldn’t hold his size against him.

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Sometimes the body of work is too good to ignore. So the Ottawa Redblacks, facing a need for quarterbacks with the retirement of Duck Hodges and Taryn Christion, signed Tyrie Adams last month. Adams, who was finishing his second season with the Indoor Football League’s Salina Liberty before signing with Ottawa, completed rookie camp with the Redblacks Friday and is looking forward to the days ahead. While he’s 6-foot-2, he’s also listed at 185 lbs., not the bulk some teams are looking for.

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“I guess (the one barrier) I haven’t overcome yet is my weight, I’m an undersized quarterback,” said Adams. “It’s a blessing Ottawa took a chance on me. As long as I show I can progress – make the reads, get down on the ground when I run and not get injured when I take a hit – that’s what’s going to put me on top. The barriers are going to be there – you either cry about it or just keep moving. A lot of people (talk about) COVID, (and maybe that’s why I didn’t get drafted into the NFL). It wasn’t COVID that didn’t get me drafted, it was me being undersized.”

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Last year, he took a job as running backs coach 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 of him.

“(The coaching) was always second to me playing,” said Adams. “I wasn’t ready to hang up the cleats. I could have just said, ‘No, I’ll go 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 know me were telling me it wasn’t worth it (to still be playing), ‘You can go have a desk job, bring in some money and settle down.’ It’s not like they were telling me, ‘No, you can’t play, you won’t be able to do it.’ They just felt it was taking too long. They wanted what was best for me. I’ve always had faith – in my ability and in my support system.”

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Adams, who turns 25 next Thursday, had a standout 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-like tricks up his sleeve from him.

“I got that nickname from trying to play within a system and then something crazy happened in a game (while with the Liberty),” said Adams. “We were running a fake screen. But my offensive line only heard screen. So you can imagine, I’m faking the screen… and the whole D line is in my face because the offensive line is thinking it’s a screen and not blocking them. (The defensive linemen) were trying to swing me down. Everybody thought I was tackled, but I put my arm down, stayed up, cut in and then pitched the ball to my receiver. He took it for a touchdown.”

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The nickname doesn’t totally explain his game, though. Adams says he plays within the system; he’s a pocket passer.

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

Ironically, Adams is a friend of quarterback David Moore, who was signed by the Redblacks a week ago.

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

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A first-round draft 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 higher visibility would get him an NFL opportunity. It didn’t happen; after weighing his options, Stevens signed with the Redblacks last week.

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

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

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

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