This week we had a chance to catch up with the Derrick Henry of quarterbacks, Chris Streveler, to chat South Dakota Coyotes, his unconventional journey to the NFL and how the pandemic robbed us of seeing a bunch of little Chris Streveler parading around our neighbourhoods in jorts and a minx coat this Halloween season.
How’s it going Chris?
I’m good man. Just standing on my balcony…it’s warm. How’s the weather there? (chuckles)
I’m jumping right into this. You were a Golden Gopher for three years. You had moments at wide receiver, running back and tight end. You decided to transfer to South Dakota where you were able to compete and win the starting quarterback job. Once taking the helm, you thrived, ending your time throwing for 6,081 yards and 54 touchdowns. You were hailed with accolades earning a MVFC Offensive Player of the Year award in 2017 and was the runner-up for the Walter Payton award. I feel like your story and career to date has been a combination of some really incredible decision making on your part and a little bit of luck. Is that a fair assessment? And what was making that decision to transfer like for you?
Ya. It was a tough decision. I loved my time at Minnesota. I loved my teammates. It just came down to not getting an opportunity. My first two years I was playing quarterback and then, going into my third year, I was still the back-up. Being a big athletic guy I was kind of just trying to do whatever I could to get on the field. Long story short, it didn’t end up happening that season. I was playing receiver that spring and I spoke with the coaches. I wasn’t going to get my opportunity so I decided I would pursue going somewhere else.
The transfer process for me was interesting because there were a couple bigger schools that wanted me to actually continue playing receiver and a couple smaller schools that wanted me to play quarterback. South Dakota was the first school I visited. They wanted me to play quarterback and when I thought about that opportunity I had to jump at it. The coaching staff was really excited about adding me and I was really excited about the second chance to play quarterback again. I ended up making the call and that was the only visit I took.
Is it a fair assessment to say this was a breathe of new life into football for you?
That decision absolutely was a breathe of new life into football for me. That’s how I viewed it. It was a second chance at my career. I knew if I stayed at Minnesota my career would be over. I could have potentially become a special teams player and rod off into the sunset and been done. But I felt like I had more to offer and owed it to myself to give it a fair chance. If I don’t give it a chance I’m probably going to look back, down the road, and say damn I wished I had explored all the options. Going to South Dakota changed my entire outlook. When I moved there, well I wasn’t really supposed to be there, my career is supposed to be over. So I am going in with the mindset of giving this everything I have. I am not going to worry about making it to the next level. I am just going to go as hard as I can and try to help this program head in the right direction and win some football games. And that’s kind of what happened.
Isn’t that a crazy thing to look back on now, seeing where you find yourself today, a few years removed?
No, it’s so crazy. When I got down here to Arizona I had a little time to reflect. There were so many decisions that could have gone in a different direction that would have changed me being here. I am thankful that I have sort of made all the right decisions and had people around me pushing me in the right direction and giving me sound advice. It really is crazy, thinking back to that time where I am probably done playing football to here I am on bye week with the Arizona Cardinals. Crazy I guess, how things have panned out.
Do you think your time playing an array of positions at Minnesota sharpened the skillset?
Maybe not the skillset but it gave me a different perspective of the game. When you play quarterback pretty much your whole life you see the game from that perspective. Once you go out to receiver and you’re press coverage it’s a little different, when you’re at tight end or playing fullback and you have to go block a middle linebacker, you’re looking at life a little differently. It just gave me a different appreciation for what my teammates have to do on a daily basis
I think what a lot of people might not realize is that your Pro Day, that featured Dallas Goedert and Jake Wieneke, was attended by all 32 NFL teams. And your performance at your pro day would have put you atop of the QB class in all categories. You ran a 4.45 40, 125 broad and 38 1/2 vertical which outperformed a QB class that included Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. Your 40 would have actually put you ahead of teammate Christian Kirk by .02 seconds. What was your pro-day experience like? What was the pressure of that like?
I was juiced up for my pro day. I was excited to be there just because I hadn’t heard a lot from NFL teams. I was just hungry for that opportunity and it was an outstanding opportunity because Dallas went to South Dakota State and we all just combined for one pro day. Myself and some of my teammates were just excited to go out there one more time and do what we could. You’ve put in your time and work to that point so there is no point stressing about it. You just have to go out there and try to enjoy the moment. Leaving that day I felt pretty positive about it. I didn’t know where it was going to go from there but I was happy with the on-field performance.
What was your experience and knowledge with the CFL prior to coming to Winnipeg and what in your mind made this the best fit for you at the time?
I started to learn about it that December. I got a call from LaPo (Paul LaPolice). He introduced himself and told me about the Bombers and that I was on their neg list. At that point I googled Winnipeg. Determined it was 8 hours North of South Dakota, a straight shot up I-29. The reason I ended up by-passing a couple NFL training camps and mini camps was I knew it would just be an uphill battle, and not that I wasn’t willing to fight for it, I just knew I had another great opportunity with Winnipeg. That was just the best opportunity to get a fair chance and the way that ended up panning out, I couldn’t have made a better decision.
Did you view that as an opportunity to start a pro-career and carry on football or did you see it as a stepping stone to the NFL?
Not at all. For me, it was I get to play professional football for my job and from that point forward I was all in on that. I wasn’t thinking of the NFL. I was just worried about being the best CFL player I could be. I was just really excited to get that opportunity.
You signed with Winnipeg 7 days prior to Darian Durant announcing his retirement which essentially opened a door for you in terms of opportunity to compete for the back-up job off the bat. Maybe that is some of the luck. You would win this which ultimately lead to a week 1 start after injury. What was it like to be thrown into the fire and play the Canadian game week 1?
Yah, that was probably one of the craziest situations of my career in general. Just because coming up to Winnipeg, I’ve been there for 3 weeks and played in 2 preseason games and then Matt gets hurt the last practice of camp. I end up getting the call to start week 1. It was a whirlwind, trial by fire, just like you said, I wasn’t super comfortable with the game at that point. I didn’t necessarily know all the rules. I was kind of just out there relying on my teammates. Luckily, a lot of great veteran guys in the locker room that helped me through that process. And then try to have as much fun with it as I could, be myself.
There would be a number of plays that will stick with Bomber fans as case studies on why you were so beloved here in Winnipeg during your short tenure. The one that sticks to me is the is the West Semi-Final. You were the game’s leading rusher with 82 yards that included a 24 yard touchdown on what was a fracture in the ankle and a severe high-ankle sprain. What sticks out to you as the highlight moment on the field here in Winnipeg?
Ya, that’s my favourite play from my whole career, any level. For me it was just coming back form that injury when I was supposed to be out, supposed to be out for the season. To play in that game and score a touchdown late, it just meant so much to me to be out there with my teammates and getting that opportunity and being able to capitalize. I can’t really put it into words. A feeling I’ve never really have and I was just extremely proud to be out there with those guys and getting the win.
That and the Banjo Bowl at home against Sask. Getting to start that game was awesome. And obviously the Grey Cup and getting to play an interesting role, throwing a couple passes, catching a couple passes, getting in on the run, and getting to throw a touchdown.
That parade was a big thing for the city of Winnipeg. It was a celebration of that monkey off the back, ending the drought. What sticks out to you from that day?
It was an awesome day. One of the most enjoyable days I have ever had for sure. What I really remember, two things, number one just getting to be there and celebrate with my teammates and having another day with them. Especially being on that float I was on with just the QB’s. You go through a lot with those guys and we had a really tight knit group. We’d come in early every morning and meet. At the end of the day we were friends which isn’t always the case. Number two, was just the energy from the fans and the people there. Being on the truck with the Grey Cup people were jumping in the truck, people were bringing you beers, it was mayhem. There was a group of people that were just following us the whole way, that along with the people lining the streets. Pulling into the Forks you could see people as far as your eyes could see. That’s what made that day so special.
It’s really a shame that we are living in this pandemic world because I feel like we’d be handing out candy to a ton of little Chris Strevelers. One of those go to costumes. The jackets still in the closet?
I never even thought of that (laughing). I actually don’t have the jacket. It is still with my girlfriends mom up in Winnipeg. Didn’t make the trip down to AZ but I did come across the cowboy hat and the sunglasses the other day when I was moving. Collector’s items at this point. I got to hang on to these.
There seems to be a few connecting points to Winnipeg in Arizona. You have Kliff Kingsbury who held a spot on the QB depth chart for a season. You also have Cardinals QB coach Tom Clements who lead the Bombers to a Grey Cup in 1984. Has that common ground at all helped with the transition?
100% it has helped the transition. First thing that was brought up when I met Kliff was Winnipeg. He came up and we started chatting about how we liked to go to Earls when we were playing. That common ground makes for an easy conversation starter. He kind of brings it up a lot. Always bringing up the weather. It is cool to play for someone who understands where you came from. Not a lot of people down here have that knowledge of the CFL or respect for the CFL. But I, I do, having been up there. So playing for someone who knows what its like, has that respect for it, it’s refreshing.
Kliff only has had glowing things to say too, “I think I blacked that whole era of my life out. I retired immediately after my season there. I’ve never been that cold in my life. Great people, great football organization, and people were passionate about it, but I probably won’t be making any return trips.” haha. Hey Kliff. Come up here in summer. Golf is on us.
In week 1 you became the first CFL QB to register an NFL statistic in over a decade. The last being Jeff Garcia who recorded 3 carries for -2 and a fumble. What was that moment like for you to get the call and first step field?
I knew going into the game there was the potential for that to happen and to have that opportunity. For me, you try not to make the moment too big. Just focus on the task at hand. and what you have to do. Eerily similar to what would happen in the CFL. It’s 3rd and 1 and you get the “Hey Strevy, you’re in, QB sneak”. Pretty simple play, nothing too crazy, but obviously you still want to execute. Go out there and get the first down and keep the drive moving. That’s all I kind of put into that.
What’s it been like playing in empty stadiums for the most part?
It’s different. Its just one less outside factor. Bring your own juice. It’s your guys and it’s their guys and let’s line it up and play.
Arizona boasts an incredibly talented WR core that includes DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald. What has it like the first time meeting and throwing to those guys
Ya, getting to throw to those guys is awesome. I mean Fitz is a legend. They way he works on a daily basis, it’s just incredible. I have so much respect for that. Hop just makes every single play when the ball is thrown his way. And we have a lot of other guys that make a lot of plays as well. I try to make the most of every opportunity I get to throw with them. I take it as a challenge to try and put the ball right on the money. Any time I over throw Fitz. I’m just pissed because that’s the GOAT right there and I just wasted that rep for him. I want to make those reps count for those guys and help them as much as I can. They bring a lot of energy and leadership to the team and it’s fun.
Do you feel like you have had a “Welcome to the NFL” moment yet?
I don’t know if I have a welcome to the NFL moment. I haven’t played too much in games but the one kind of story I do have when I found out I made the team. we were coming in the next day for a lift and they kind of start cutting guys. At that point I kind of knew I made the team. The frist guy I saw when I sat down to eat breakfast was Fitz. Fitz goes “Hey Strevy, just want to be the first to congratulate you on making the team” and kind of dapped me up. That was kind of cool. Year 17 for Fitz. He’s a beast and he didn’t need to do that but I meant a lot to me. One of the cooler moments up to this point. Hopefully I have a few more.
Let’s say you get to do a jersey swap with one currently player in the NFL. Who would it be?
Interesting question. I’d have to say Tom Brady. Another GOAT. Someone I looked up to as a little kid and he’s still doing it at such a high level at that age. I have a lot of respect for him.
Favourite player growing up was Tom?
I had a couple. I always liked Reggie Bush growing up too. I was kind of an athletic little kid. I’d do my little Reggie Bush flip into the endzone in Pee Wee Football because I thought I had some juice back then.
You got your ring start of October. What was that moment like and who’d you get to share it with?
My girlfriend brought it down with her when she came down to Arizona. So I got to share it with her. I called some people. You know, it was so cool, when I put it on, I’ve never really worn jewelry. But when I put it on I was talking to her and I am acting totally different. Like you don’t even know this guy right now (chuckles). I was giving her a hard time. But to open that and reflect on the season and the guys it was pretty special.
Thanks for the time and all the best this season Strev. I think it is safe to say Winnipeg is pulling for you
P/C Derrick Spencer