Brad Sinopoli was recognized just six years after winning the 2010 Hec Crighton trophy in a record-setting season at quarterback. He built on that success, transforming into a successful receiver in the CFL, and claimed the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award with the Eastern Conference champion Ottawa RedBlacks in 2015.
For Sinopoli, whose path to the pros via Calgary is well-documented, another CFL season is just around the corner. Untangling his Gee-Gees memories from his focus on the upcoming quest for a Grey Cup causes mixed emotions.
“It feels like just yesterday when you see the other guys [Gee-Gees team mates], but when I’m not around those guys it feels like forever ago. When Coach Piché called me to tell me that I was going into the Hall of Fame, I had no idea what to say to him. I’ve only really seen five or six of the guys over the last few years, so it should be a fun gathering.”
Despite his remarkable rise in garnet and grey and beyond, the road was not always clear for Sinopoli. “I almost quit in my first year, after the first few days of camp. I’m sure a lot of guys go through this but I kept messing up – I was awful. I called my dad and said I wanted to quit but he convinced me to stay.”
“I didn’t think I was going to end up as the starter – I was just hoping to make the team, then hoping to dress. You only realize later the things you can do. And my team mates felt similar. No one had a huge ego and we built up a comfort. We had to go through it all together and we were on the same page, mentally.”
It was his team mates that accompanied him to the CIS awards gala when he claimed the 2010 Hec Crighton Trophy. Ottawa had six All-Canadians that season, including receivers Matt Bolduc and Cyril Adjeitey. “I remember being nervous most of all. It was an honour to be there with all the other great players. Coach had hinted that I might win it but never said for sure. It was bittersweet for all of us.”
It was in 2009 that Sinopoli took over as the starting quarterback. “I remember thinking, ‘man it’s hard.’’ It was much different than playing against the lower teams at the end of games. There was one moment though that I remember as a key in my first game. Matt Bolduc made this one catch with his defender all over him – the guy’s hand was on his facemask. It was an unbelievable catch. That made me realize that the guys around me were really good and I didn’t have to worry about every little thing on my own. That was the moment that a lot of things opened up for me.”
In 2010 Sinopoli led a veteran team which was considered a Vanier Cup contender, earning a no. 2 ranking in the CIS Top Ten while riding a five game win streak to start the season. “The confidence that we had in each other just bounced back and forth. We believed we’d always make the plays. One game, I threw five picks against Mac and no one got on me, no one panicked. We always had confidence in each other.” After falling behind 35-17, Ottawa won the game 43-35. The final touchdown came on Sinopoli’s Gee-Gees record-setting 106 yard pass to Adjeitey. Sinopoli actually only threw four interceptions, but in his retelling he is harder on himself.
That self-deprecating trait comes through as well when he describes his brief time as a Gee-Gee receiver in 2008. As game day loomed, receivers were getting injured one by one. In Brad’s words, “They just needed to stick someone in there as a placeholder. The coaches must have thought, well he knows the offence, he can run around out there.” The placeholder showed he could handle himself. He picked up seven receptions for 74 yards that season. “It was a few bubble screens. I had no idea what I was doing and it was the most uncomfortable that I’ve ever been on the field. But I probably said I could do it. That happened a lot – I would feel something different inside than what was happening outside or how it turned out.”
Sinopoli also showcased his athleticism as a mobile quarterback while in garnet and grey. “A lot of times there were guys open all over the place,” he laughs. “At first I just had the instinct to take off. But it got to the point as a senior where I felt very confident. I felt I could get the first down, I could beat whoever was in front of me.”
When the Peterborough, Ont., native signed with the Ottawa Redblacks in February of 2015, the news was tinged with nostalgia both from uOttawa fans and Sinopoli himself.
"It felt like home for me – always,” he said at his press conference. “There was a strong pull to come back. When I came back here when we played them, I felt something when I stepped on the field again. I guess I've always had it in the back of my mind about coming back to Ottawa."
He continues now, “When I came to uOttawa it was really a gut feeling and I knew right away that’s where I should go. I don’t exactly know why but I felt really good about the people there and the team structure. It was just a feeling which turned out to be right.”