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Alouettes quarterback Crompton wants to keep long hair and winning record

01/21/2015 03:38 EST | Updated 03/23/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Jonathan Crompton went to see American Sniper at a local cinema this week and got spotted by a fan because of his shaggy long hair.

"I was going to buy some popcorn, because you can't watch a movie without popcorn, and this lady comes up with her husband and kids and says 'I wish you all the best this year and I recognized you because of your hair,'" the Montreal Alouettes quarterback said Wednesday.

"So my hair's the most recognizable thing. I can't hide it."

Crompton hopes to be more than just a wild hairdo as he enters his second season with the Alouettes after a see-saw 2014 campaign. He was cut in training camp by the Edmonton Eskimos in May, but then signed in mid-season just in time to help Montreal turn around what had been a disastrous campaign.

The 27-year-old was not the most elegant pivot, completing 58.1 per cent of his passes for a so-so 85.2 quarterback rating. But he took over as starter on a 1-7 team and helped them finish a respectable 9-9.

He also led Montreal over British Columbia in the East semifinal before losing a week later to Hamilton.

This year, Crompton will have the benefit of a full training camp and go into the season for the first time as the incumbent starter.

"We're still a long ways from training camp and we've got a lot of work to do," said Crompton, in town for a week-long visit. "We need to get ready for mini-camp in April.

"The organization has to go through the draft and all that. But we're excited. We're looking forward to the opportunity ahead. It can't come fast enough."

Quarterback was a nightmare position last season as the Alouettes tried to find a replacement for retired CFL all-time passing leader Anthony Calvillo.

They thought their guy would be Troy Smith, but the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner struggled to complete passes and rarely ran the ball. The team also didn't win with Tanner Marsh or Alex Brink behind centre.

Crompton was fourth on the depth chart when he signed a three-year contract in July.

His arrival came just after general manager Jim Popp brought in two coaches, former quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Turk Schonert, to help inexperienced offensive co-ordinator Ryan Dinwiddie.

They liked what they saw in Crompton, who had eight appearances in 2013 as backup to Mike Reilly in Edmonton. He saw his first action as an Alouette on Aug. 22 when he relieved Brink in the second quarter of a 24-16 loss to Winnipeg. The Asheville, N.C., native looked sharp as he passed for 266 yards.

The next week, he got his first CFL start in a win over Ottawa to start the Alouettes on an unlikely climb back to respectability. Including playoffs, the club went 9-2 with Crompton as the starter.

Now he wants to keep it going.

"I'm not going to change the way I prepare now that I'm the starter," he said. "I prepared the same even when I wasn't the starter.

"My mindset hasn't changed a bit. Right now, I'm just enjoying the off-season with my family, working out and staying focused."

He should also benefit from greater stability in the organization. Last off-season, the Alouettes took until late in the winter to name Tom Higgins as head coach get the rest of the staff in place. It took nearly half the season for the staff to be settled.

Higgins is back, with defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe as assistant head coach, while Kavis Reed will handle special teams. Schonert was promoted to offensive co-ordinator as well as quarterbacks coach, filling in for Garcia who left the quarterbacks position at the end of the season. Dinwiddie remains as an offensive assistant coach along with Calvillo, who will make his coaching debut.

"It's different not having someone you worked with every day, but this is a business," said Crompton. "I haven't had back to back (position) coaches since high school.

"It's always a changing environment, so we try to keep it as constant as possible within ourselves. We wish Jeff the best. He helped me out tremendously, mentally and physically. But now my focus is on this year."

Another change is that the long hair will soon be gone. He has already promised it to the Locks For Love campaign, which supplies wigs to kids with cancer.

But hair has become his signature feature, so he has vowed to grow it back.

"I'm not going to go completely bald, it's just not my look, I guess you can say," he said. "I want to have a decent length of hair. My thought process is that I want to grow it as long as I can so when I cut it, I have a little hanging out of the helmet. That would be ideal because I feel that's what's most recognizable about me now, my hair."

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