Terrell Jana of the Virginia Cavaliers brings a pair of sure hands to the CFL next season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Photo by Matt Riley property of University of Virginia media relations 2021. All Rights Reserved)
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CFL Draft 2021: A true purist’s receiver, STM grad Jana puts his hands to an ‘instrumental’ test as he prepares for rookie season with ‘Riders!

As a budding musician, Terrell Jana has discovered that striking a chord or two has not only helped relax his mind, but keep his hands dexterous and strong in his endless pursuit of catching the football.

Taken on the whole, it’s just another example of the purist’s approach the Burnaby native and Virginia Cavaliers receiver will bring to his rookie season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Not the biggest.

Not the fastest.

Yet bursting with the kinds of underdog intangibles which only helped TSN’s team of draft analysts speak to all of the understated nuance that is part-and-parcel of the solidly-built receiver from St. Thomas More Collegiate, whom the Roughriders selected with the eighth pick in the second round, 17th overall, in Tuesday’s Canadian Football League draft.

“I had him as the best offensive playmaker in this draft,” remarked TSN’s Davis Sanchez, the former Montreal and B.C. cornerback, of the 6-foot, 200-pound Jana.

“I turned the film on and watched him work the slot and he reminded me of Marquay McDaniel,” continued Sanchez of a former 10-year veteran (2009-18) pass catcher for Hamilton and Calgary, who is currently the Stampeders’ receivers coach, and over his decade on the field not only totalled 7,366 yards and 37 majors through the air, but played at a similarly-stocky 5-foot-10, 210 pounds.

“(McDaniel) was great in the slot, he was impossible to guard because he was quick enough to get away from you, but he had a big lower body so he was strong to get off,” continued Sanchez.

“Look, Jana can set DBs up,” he added. “He’s fast enough to get away from coverage in regards to release off the line, in regards to timing. The way he runs routes for a slot receiver is perfect. Yes, he’s a smaller guy, but in the lower body, he’s a thick guy. He is pro ready. And not only can he come in and compete right away. I think he starts right away.”

TSN’s Farhan Lalji deepened the conversation about just how Jana might best be deployed while building long-term chemistry with Cody Fajardo, his new starting quarterback.

“You talk about the 4.6 (seconds) in the 40 (yard dash) at his pro day,” said Lalji, “and people thought how he would benefit by getting the waggle and getting a chance to motion and build up speed.

“Generally, Canadian receivers play at that field-side Z spot where you don’t really get the benefit of the motion,” he added. “If you give that to Jana, I think it’s a real game-changer for him, and I think for Saskatchewan as well in terms of what they do with their ratio.”

All of that is music to Jana fans and the Roughriders faithful. 

Oh, and about that earlier reference we made to Jana’s recent foray into music making? 

Well, as he begins preparations in earnest with an actual professional destination in mind, some of the thoughts he offered on both football and life last week (click here to read our in-depth pre-draft feature) seem especially apropos today, revealing an added layer of depth to the kind of person the Roughriders have added to their roster.

Over what has been a soul-testing time for student-athletes across the continent the last 14-plus months, Jana found his refuge by seeking solace in one of the small music rooms on campus at Virginia, where he learned how to play the piano.

“It was my senior year and we had a lot of free time, and I enjoy learning new things,” he said. “I didn’t play an instrument, so learning the piano really helped me.”

Jana laughs and admits that, yes, it helped him strengthen his fingers and his grip to make him one of the most reliable targets in big-time college football.

But he stresses it gave him even more.

“I think the way it helped me the most with football was, it gave me a place where I could go and remove myself from football and school and everything,” he continued of a room on campus that was home to a piano.

“I could go in there and be creative in a way that wasn’t taxing on my body. It was a coping mechanism for me, to help me get through the difficulties of football which is obviously very demanding at times.

“When I was in that room, I’d put my phone away and just create music in a way that I had not experienced before.”

Press Jana on the aspect of finding even more ways to strengthen the mind-body connection that is so important in making big catches on the football field, however, and he adds that he’s recently taken up another instrument, one that he says is paying even bigger dividends in honing his hands.

“I started playing guitar a while ago,” he laughs, “and I think guitar is definitely harder because it really does test my hand strength. I think, when it comes to catching passes, it will apply a little bit more directly.”

Anything to make the catch.

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One thought on “CFL Draft 2021: A true purist’s receiver, STM grad Jana puts his hands to an ‘instrumental’ test as he prepares for rookie season with ‘Riders!

  1. Coached this stud basketball in grade 8. One of best two way players I had the privilege to coach at LTSS. Amazing work ethic, strong character and possessed a undeniable will to win.

    Comes from a great family. Congrats Terrell, loved following your impressive career on and off the field

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