Even if the experience barely lasted a week, and it took an injury to a teammate to land the opportunity, Cody Fajardo could finally say he was the No. 1 quarterback on a professional football team.
Fajardo, the only quarterback to ever lead Servite to a state championship victory, got his chance with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League on Aug. 3. A shoulder injury to the starting quarterback opened the door for Fajardo, and the 25-year-old was ready to leap right in.
Though he was given little notice that he’d be entering the game, Fajardo seemed unfazed as he buckled his chin strap and took the field late in the third quarter. The first word Fajardo uses to describe himself on his Twitter account is “Catholic,” and he was confident he was in good hands at that defining moment.
“I knew the big man upstairs was going to look over me and give me my opportunity,” he said. “I just waited patiently.”
The Montreal Alouettes were well on their way to a 41-24 victory when Fajardo took the field, but he didn’t’ let the opportunity go to waste. He passed for 75 yards in the fourth quarter and scored on a 17-yard touchdown run on the final play of the game.
“Once I shook off the nerves a little bit, I kind of settled in,” Fajardo said.
A different quarterback started the following week against the Calgary Stampeders but was ineffective and Fajardo was again called upon as an in-game replacement. Once again, he demonstrated the toughness and running ability that was his calling card at Servite.
Fajardo ran over one defender and absorbed a ferocious sideline hit from another, earning that player a fine from the league.
“I took some shots that I probably shouldn’t have, but that’s professional football, right?” Fajardo told reporters after the game. “You’ve got to fight for every down.”
Fajardo, who led the Friars to the 2009 CIF-State Division II bowl victory, has been playing with an edge ever since he was a freshman on the Servite junior varsity team. In one of his first practices, he put a shoulder into a would-be tackler and broke the defender’s facemask.
“All the fans would say, ‘That kid needs to learn how to slide and get out of bounds,’” his father, Tim Fajardo, told the L.A. Times. “I would tell them, ‘That’s not this kid.’”
Make no mistake, Fajardo can throw the ball effectively too. He broke the Servite single-season school record with 3,562 total yards his senior year, yet scholarship offers from major colleges eluded him.
He ended up accepting a last-minute offer from Nevada, where he succeeded Colin Kaepernick and eventually joined him as the only players in FBS history to combine for 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards during their college careers.
Fajardo again fell through the cracks, however, and went undrafted by the NFL.
He spent training camp with the Oakland Raiders, who eventually cut him about a week before the 2015 season. He hooked up with the Argonauts the following spring, where he spent most of past two seasons running the ball on short-yardage situations and holding for the place kickers.
“No matter what I do, whether it’s short yardage, hold, I do it the best I can in the CFL,” he said. “When given the opportunity I just want to play my heart out.”
It’s safe to say opportunities will come again for Fajardo.