Chris Streveler made his first college start at quarterback as a Gophers freshman in 2014 against San Jose State. He completed one pass. It netted 7 yards. That glorious moment came with 6½ minutes left in the game.
The Gophers coaching staff showed so little faith in Streveler’s passing ability as a dual-threat quarterback that they ultimately moved him to wide receiver.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. Streveler made his NFL debut for the Arizona Cardinals. As the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.
This isn’t the average rags-to-riches story of a long shot. This one is more like straight fiction.
Chris Streveler, an NFL quarterback? Like, how?
“I wasn’t really playing quarterback when I left [the Gophers],” he said Monday on a Zoom call from Arizona. “I was looking at potentially playing receiver someplace because that’s what I ended up playing at the end of my time at Minnesota. I was really liking it. I felt like I started doing some good things and kind of figuring out what to do.”
Life is about opportunity, and Streveler’s football arc is a testament to his ability to maximize a second chance to play a position he loves. The University of South Dakota took him as a quarterback as a graduate transfer and he set 20 program records in becoming one of the top players in FCS, which opened the door to the Canadian Football League.
He started his pro career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers down the depth chart, but circumstances opened another door to regular playing time and then a starting job and a Grey Cup championship last November.
Streveler’s athleticism and versatility caught the eye of several NFL teams who invited him for a tryout. The Cardinals signed him in February. He faced long odds again, especially when the pandemic wiped out the entire offseason. Pfft, no sweat. He made the 53-man roster out of training camp and beat out Brett Hundley as the backup to Kyler Murray.
“It definitely has been a bit of whirlwind,” he said. “I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t taken a couple of times here and there to sit back and reflect on this crazy journey I’ve had in the last few months.”
He reached another milepost Sunday with his first NFL action in a 24-20 win over the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. He converted a third-and-1 on a quarterback sneak in the final minute of the third quarter to keep alive a touchdown drive.
Streveler called his first play “exciting” but tried not to overdramatize the moment. He ran that same “wedge” play countless times in the CFL.
“It’s a quarterback sneak, it’s not really a crazy play by any means,” he said.
Teammates congratulated him as he ran off the field, including tight end Maxx Williams, his former Gophers teammate. Streveler traded texts after the game with another former teammate from Minnesota and Winnipeg, wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky.
“We were laughing that I’m down here now but basically what happened was the same thing that I’ve been doing in the CFL for a couple of years,” Streveler said.
The Cardinals could use Streveler in a similar role as New Orleans Saints jack-of-all-trades weapon Taysom Hill. He can pass, run, catch, play special teams.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “But he plays quarterback. It’s not one of those things where he’s a slash guy. He’s a real quarterback and has done a really nice job.”
Kingsbury said the plan is to keep Streveler as Murray’s backup because of his versatility. Streveler’s unconventional path has taught him not to take anything for granted.
“In this business you have to prove yourself every single day,” he said. “You have to earn it.”
His story makes him easy to root for. He’s even received congratulatory tweets and well-wishes from Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, Winnipeg’s bitter rival.
“I know it took a lot for that person to tweet that because that probably hurt them to say,” he joked.
Streveler still has loose ends to tie up from his CFL days. He hasn’t received his Grey Cup championship ring yet. A Blue Bombers employee texted him recently asking Streveler to fill out customs forms so he can receive it.
“I’ve been a little preoccupied down here with some other things, so I haven’t gotten around to that,” he said.
He’s busy being an NFL quarterback. Go figure.
Chip Scoggins • 612-673-4484