TORONTO - Toronto Argonauts head coach Jim Barker likes plenty of things about Gibran Hamdan, but what he admires most has nothing to do with any of his newest quarterback's on-field talents.
"From a skills standpoint, he's got a strong arm, he has a real good presence in the pocket, he's got average mobility but he's a real big guy so he's hard to bring down on a first hit," Barker said Wednesday after his team handed the former Buffalo Bills third-stringer a one-year deal, plus an option.
"But what I like best about him," Barker continued, "is he has a humbleness about the CFL, and he understands that it's a different game, he has a respect for it. So he's come in with a much different attitude about things than a lot of other guys coming from the NFL have. That has been very impressive to me."
Hamdan certainly has no intention of taking anything about the CFL and his opportunity for granted.
The 29-year-old turned down offers to remain a backup or practice roster player in the NFL for the chance to become a starter with the Argos, who last month cleared all the quarterbacks from their roster.
His signing comes a day after pivot Dalton Bell was acquired from Saskatchewan for a fifth-round pick, and Barker said he expects to add at least one more QB in the coming weeks.
Hamdan knows he must win the starter's job and intends to go after his opportunity without the ego some players have when heading north. It's something he learned from his from his future grandfather-in-law, Canadian Football Hall of Famer Bud Grant. He's engaged to Grant's grandaughter, Jenny.
"I have a lot of reverence for the CFL," said Hamdan. "I know from talking to him, he's obviously has a great feeling about the CFL and spoke so highly of it, so I have a lot of respect for it.
"I understand that it is a different game. Although I think I'm up for the challenge, it will be a challenge to assimilate to the skills and traits necessary to succeed."
Barker believes Hamdan has all the physical tools, but putting them to use effectively will be the key.
One of the main challenges quarterbacks face in coming to the CFL is the difference in reading defences given the wider field and the extra player on both sides of the ball. Barker likes to employ a fast-paced offence, with quick-strike passes, so Hamdan will need to adjust.
"I think it lends to a little more fun," he said of the bigger field. "From my off-the-cuff experience with it, it lends itself to a little bit more artistic qualities, if you will, with the motioning and the creative things you can do.
"I think the wider field will play into my strengths, but it's something I'm going to have to get accustomed to and work on."
The challenge of leading a team is what interested the six-foot-four, 220-pound Hamdan in Toronto.
Much of the groundwork was laid by Bart Andrus before the former Argos coach who was fired last December. Hamdan played for Andrus with NFL Europe's Amsterdam Admirals in 2006, winning league offensive MVP honours.
He remained on the Argos radar after the release of starting QB Kerry Joseph, backup Cody Pickett and little-used reserve Stephen Reaves last month, and said the coaching change didn't alter his outlook on the opportunity.
"Fortunately for me the new regime was interested as well," said Hamdan. "This a rare opportunity for someone in my position who spent seven years in the NFL kind of being a backup and being someone that got other people prepared to play.
"I have a burning desire to perform on the field myself."
Hamdan bounced around the NFL after being selected in the seventh round of the 2003 draft by Washington. Since then, he's been with six teams, including the Seattle Seahawks twice.
During that span, he appeared in just one regular-season game, that being in 2003 with Washington when he completed 1-of-2 passes for seven yards.
Hamdan played in four exhibition games last season with Buffalo, completing 32-of-48 passes (66.7 per cent) for 427 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
He did, however, play three seasons in NFL Europe (2004-'06) and in his final year with Amsterdam, he was the league's offensive MVP after completing 102-of-162 passes (63 per cent) for 1,629 yards and 12 TDs with only three interceptions.
He's got a chance to put up those kinds of numbers again in Toronto.
"Gibran could have signed in the NFL and made a lot more money down there but ... playing is more important to him than money," said Barker. "He sees a great opportunity so he turns down an opportunity to stay down there for an opportunity to come up here and show he's the guy."
If things work with the Argos, Hamdan would be happy to end his nomadic football days.
"I would love to perform and bring a team to Toronto that Argo fans can be proud of," he said. "If that's the case I'd love to finish my playing career in Toronto."