Living with a label. Jonathan Sénécal knows tobacco.
Considered the best Quebec quarterback of his generation, the star of the Université de Montréal Carabins must deal with the aura that comes with being the most dominant player in the university network. As if the prophecy was coming true.
Sénécal took advantage of a rare morning off last week, a few days before traveling to Quebec to face the Rouge et Or of Laval University. His calm, low voice was somewhat lost between the raindrops crashing on the CEPSUM stands and the renovations made to the last section of seats.
The 23-year-old talks about his experience Monday Night Footballwhen quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon after just four games in a New York Jets uniform.
“It seems it hurts really bad,” he said, sitting down in a row protected by the roof.
This meeting between the Jets and the Buffalo Bills was almost an exception to Sénécal’s usual routine. “I don’t really watch sports in general. I’m not going to spend my whole Sunday watching football. It’s not something that really comes to me. I’ll watch games once in a while. »
The Mirabellois tries to avoid distractions as much as possible. If he is not overly attracted by NFL football, he is even less attracted by the comments or analyzes made about it.
Even before Sénécal entered the André-Grasset college, expectations for him were excessive. It has climbed the ranks as the greatest project in Quebec football. Finally a Quebec quarterback with the potential to join the professional ranks, it was said.
I’m not a guy who will really read or listen to what’s being said about me. I just play football.
The Carabins star doesn’t care about expectations: “I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself. I know that if I have a bad match, it won’t make me a less good player. »
However, he hasn’t had any bad matches since the start of the new season. He was named offensive player of the week by the RSEQ after his first three games. He dominates his counterparts in all categories, with 67 completed passes, a success rate of 70.5%, 930 passing yards, 7 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions.
Sitting facing Mount Royal, hosting the UdeM campus, he however refuses to identify himself as the best player. But this mountain is his now. He reigns there as king and master. Upon entering CEPSUM, his face is the first thing apparent, as his photo is placed in a very large format just after the entrance door.
“I didn’t even know there was one. I never noticed,” he says.
Like a rich heir unaware of his fortune, Sénécal sometimes seems to neglect the reputation that precedes his name.
The HEC Montréal student is in his third year of eligibility with the Carabins. However, nothing has changed about him since his arrival. Aside from a few more tattoos and a different haircut, the image he has chosen to project is the same as when he started.
On Instagram, he has only six publications. On Facebook, he doesn’t even have a profile picture. “It’s not something that’s part of my daily life. I don’t really like posting things about my life. I like that, keeping my stuff to myself,” he explains.
A man of few words, Sénécal much prefers to express himself on the ground. “There is a difference between me in football and me in private life. »
The fact remains that he still wants to mark his time on the mountain. “It’s important to leave a good mark,” he believes. For him, the greatest legacy would be to bring the Vanier Cup home.
In 2021, he lost in the semi-final of the Canadian championship. Last year, the Carabins fell in the final of the provincial championship. “When we lost the Dunsmore Cup, that was a big motivator. Losing by one point at the last second is heartbreaking. »
Sénécal therefore arrived at training camp faster, more agile, in addition to having added muscle to his frame. The 6 ft, 200 lb quarterback will measure his success this season this way: “I would like my receivers to all have equal statistics,” he retorts. It proves that we are capable of distributing the ball well. If every receiver can have 50 yards per game, let’s face it, that would be huge for our offense. »
Towards the professional ranks
Sénécal has two seasons remaining before being eligible for the Canadian Football League (CFL) draft. Quebec representation at the quarterback position in the CFL has been almost zero in recent decades. At this moment, Sénécal is best placed to possibly reverse the trend.
“It’s definitely something I would like,” he admits, “but lots of things can happen. But I’m definitely preparing for that. »
Usually, effective quarterbacks in the RSEQ end up in reserve positions or are simply assigned to another position once in the CFL. As if the quarters here weren’t good enough. “I will try to prove the opposite,” says Sénécal calmly.
In his opinion, however, place of birth has nothing to do with opportunity. The best must simply be the best, regardless of province or country of origin.
I think a good quarterback, no matter where he comes from, he’s going to play. The coach wants to win. It’s a business.
And in this area, Sénécal knows his way around. He will finish his bachelor’s degree in finance next semester. He will then continue his studies by completing a specialized higher studies diploma. “I came to university to get a degree. »
He left the University of Connecticut, an NCAA team, for the Carabins and the University of Montreal. “I couldn’t have made a better choice when I came back,” he swears.
In the United States, he would probably have been a grain of sand in the desert. Three years later, he is the king of the mountain.