Gerry Dattilio – the record holder before Nathan Rourke

Gerry Dattilio – the record holder before Nathan Rourke
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Gerry Dattilio – the record holder before Nathan Rourke

Nathan Rourke and the BC Lions have made a blazing start to the 2022 CFL season. And as part of that Rourke broke the single game record for passing yardage mark for a Canadian QB.

That happened when he passed for 436 yards in a 44-3 win over Toronto. That mark surpassed the most passing yards a Canadian quarterback has ever put up in a CFL game, eclipsing the 427-yard mark set by Gerry Dattilio in 1981.

Which led to a question. Who was Gerry Dattilio? A Canadian QB obviously. But not one you hear much about theses days. So what kind of career could he have had? I thought it might be fun to find out.

Gerry’s World

By the mid 1980’s Gerry Dattilio was one of the few Canadian QBs since Russ Jackson to see any significant action as a starter. While he didn’t have a legendary career, he did stick around the CFL for around a decade from 1975-1985 and had his career ups and downs.

Coming out of the University of Northern Carolina in 1975 he was the first territorial exemption of the Montreal Alouettes. However, after Gerry had spent time on the injury list, the Als released him and he was picked up by the Toronto Argonauts.

Dattilio started out with Toronto in 1975, but his Argo career was only one game long! Dattilio was released by Toronto in June of 1976 and he returned to Montreal to begin a six year run with the Alouettes from 1976 to 1981.

Gerry in Montreal

Gerry Dattilio was now a third string QB behind Sonny Wade and Joe Barnes. Wade, as we have seen, became the first player to win the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award three times (1970, 1974, 1977). Even so, Gerry got to play.

Not least because he was prepared to do whatever it took to be on the team. As he said himself, “I played at every position on the field and got involved wherever I could. I showcased my versatility: a jack-of-all-trades and a master at quarterback.”

In 1980 he was given a chance and had the high point of his pro career. Wade was retired, and Barnes, having struggled through six games, did enough to be traded. So Montreal turned to Gerry. He responded by throwing for 2,892 yards and 19 touchdowns with a 57.6% completion rate (not bad for the era).

That performance was good enough to see him named an East Division All-Star and take home the Most Outstanding Canadian award.

The Vince Ferragamo disaster

How did Gerry get rewarded for an award winning season? By being relegated back to backup on the team. The Alouettes had been purchased in the offseason by Nelson Skalbania. His master plan was to bring in NFL talent.

Just two days after he became owner of the Alouettes, Skalbania announced he had signed Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo to a four-year contract. Ferragamo had just led the rams to an NFC championship, contested Super Bowl XIV and was a legitimate ‘name’ player.

Ferragamo would be the de facto starter. A move that proved disastrous. After the steady hand of Gerry Dattilio in 1980, the Als had a man out of his depth with 3 Down football. Montreal finished 3-13 and Ferragamo had ugly numbers. Because of his 175 of 342 for 2,182 yards, 7 touchdowns and 25 interception season he did not take a CFL field again. Although he did have success on returning to the NFL.

Winding down the career

After the 1981 season, Dattilio was traded to the Calgary Stampeders and the Alouettes folded. He was on Stamps’ teams that went 17-14-1 over two seasons (1982-3). In 1982 he threw for 2788 yards and 11 TD’s but threw 22 picks. In ’83 he was used mostly as a back-up, this time to first year quarterback Bernard Quarles. That season he threw for 1,213 yards, 11 touchdowns & 9 interceptions.

In March, 1984, Dattilio was traded back to Montreal (by then the re-launched Concordes) where he served as a back-up or a third-string quarterback for two seasons.

Gerry finished his career with 697 completions from 1271 attempts netting 53 touchdowns, but 79 picks. He also had 993 rushing yards on 189 carries and added eight more touchdowns. He was on the squad of three Alouettes Grey Cup teams in 1977, 78 & 79. Although the latter were losses to the legendary Edmonton Grey Cup Dynasty, he was part of the 1977 team that won the Ice Bowl. In fact, although he didn’t throw a pass in any of these games, in the 1977 game he was used as a receiver and caught two passes for 39 yards in the Alouettes’ victory. 

CFL fans are watching Nathan Rourke explode onto the pro scene. It looks like there may be a lot more to come. And if he blows past any more Canadian QB records it will be interesting to look again at who he is supplanting.

As ever there is no better way to see how this all plays out than to watch the games. Enjoy your CFL everybody!

Banner image; Gerry Dattilio. Image from Toronto Library digital archive.

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