Sports Football

Leader Lulay extends commitment to Lions with new deal

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Travis Lulay signed a two-year extension with the B.C. Lions on Thursday. reuters

Travis Lulay signed a two-year extension with the B.C. Lions on Thursday. reuters

It was the B.C. Lions' way of ensuring they'll remain Grey Cup contenders through the 2015 season.

On Thursday the club announced the signing of their No. 1 quarterback, Travis Lulay, to a two-year contract extension — a move that locks up one of the CFL's best offensive players.

Not only did the Lions secure the biggest piece of their potent offence, but as both general manager Wally Buono and coach Mike Benevides said Thursday, "the best is yet to come."

"Knowing that we're going to have Travis Lulay behind centre it gives us a tremendous chance to win, a tremendous chance to stay consistent … and play at a high, high level," Benevides said. "We want our players to emulate what he is, not only on the field but off the field. When you have a quarterback of his calibre, it give the rest of the team belief.

"This is a kind of guy I want leading our team."

According to reports, the deal is worth $450,000 per season with an option for a third year.

Since truly establishing himself in 2011 — a season that saw him compile 4,815 passing yards in 18 starts while winning the league's Most Outstanding Player award — Lulay has been a consistent offensive force for the Leos. And with a bright future still ahead, a familiar group in the locker room and the opportunity for career stability, the decision to sign an extension was simple for the 29-year-old.

"This is home now, it really is," said Lulay, who was wearing his Lions' 2011 Grey Cup ring. "Having been here for a few years we've been through a lot together with a lot of that group. I feel like given the guys we have, we have an opportunity to put ourselves in position to play for championships."

With his wife and three-month-old daughter in attendance for the announcement Thursday, the entire proceeding also gave Lulay an opportunity to look back on "the journey" — from failed stints in the NFL to joining the Lions as a free agent in 2009 to becoming one of the CFL's elite pivots.

"Four years ago, coming in not knowing if I was on my last legs as a pro and if I didn't make that team in training camp in '09, I probably would have hung it up. I probably would have been done at that point in time," he said. "So to have been given that opportunity, I'm forever grateful to Wally and the organization. I believed I could play all along, I just needed someone to agree with me and finally found a place that did."

Last season, Lulay missed a couple of regular season games with a shoulder injury but still finished with 27 touchdown passes and a career-best 66.5 completion percentage. Now, two months after the Lions were upset at home by the Calgary Stampeders in the Western final, he said he feels as good physically in January as he could. The Salem, Ore., native adds he has put NFL aspirations aside, instead staying committed to playing in Canada and with the Lions.

"Maybe that's the difference between a year ago and now," he said. "It's such a short time frame where you have an opportunity and you don't want to have any 'what ifs.' I can confidently say that I won't, and this is a decision that's right for me and my family."

Over just two seasons as a starter, Lulay has already led the team to a championship title and won the league's top individual honour. Even so, the red-headed Montana State alum said there's still much to prove moving forward.

"At this point in time, it's about maintaining a lot of what we built over the last two years," said Lulay, who was also named the Grey Cup MVP in 2011. "I take a lot of responsibilities for how the team plays and how the guys play around me and how we prepare, so that's where the motivation comes.

"All I can do is do what I've done that's given me success in the past — and that's work my tail off and care about the guys and people around me and give us a chance to win."

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