CALGARY — Former BYU starter Kevin Feterik is more than just a quarterback for the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders — he's also the owner's son.
"I don't mind it. People obviously like to make a big deal out of it, and I can understand why. It's probably never happened in sports before," Feterik said of the relationship that has become a focal point with the Calgary and CFL media. "It's always been that. It's never been he did this and that at BYU, or he started all these games at BYU and had success there. It's always been the negative. That's just how it works."
After scoring a touchdown and leading Calgary to a 32-12 victory over Ottawa in his first professional start last Tuesday, Feterik insists he's no longer bothered by it.
What's frustrating, he explained, is how his father has been characterized at times. Michael Feterik, a Southern California businessman who earned his wealth in the corrugated box industry, entered the picture 2 1/2 years ago when he began negotiating to buy the team.
"They have this thing like my dad is some evil guy or something," Kevin said. "Every guy in that locker room or in this organization would say my dad is a great guy. I already know that because he's my dad."
Both father and son rebuff speculation that the Stampeders became a family business to ensure Kevin would have a place to play.
"I think that's the perception here, but that's not the case. I don't have enough money to do that, quite frankly," Michael Feterik said. "Kevin was on the team before I bought it, and Kevin sat on the bench here for two years, and I didn't say anything."
Prior to filling in for injured starter Marcus Crandell, the 2001 Grey Cup MVP, Feterik had yet to see any extensive game action in a pro career limited by injury and reserve duty. Since leaving BYU after passing for 8,065 yards and 53 touchdowns, the left-hander has patiently waited for an opportunity to show what he can do. He dressed but did not play in two exhibition games before being cut by the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2000.
An opportunity to quarterback the now-defunct XFL's San Francisco Demons followed. It never materialized, however, thanks to a broken thumb suffered in training camp.
In 2001, Feterik signed with the Stampeders — joining the organization a year before his father took control of the team.
Michael Feterik's first venture into professional sports ownership began closer to home. He had hoped to purchase the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. That team, however, was bought from under him. Still interested in pursuing a football franchise, Feterik was steered toward the CFL. He looked into an expansion situation in Ottawa before being told Calgary was also on the market.
And though he realized his son was on the team, Feterik opted to pursue ownership for a variety of reasons, including finances and proximity.
The football operation, it was determined from the onset, would not interfere with family matters.
"(Kevin) and I have a great relationship. We have no problems," said Michael Feterik, who looks back with great fondness to the days when the two would wake up early to shoot baskets, take batting practice or just throw a football around. "It's a business deal. I'm the owner, and he doesn't come and talk to the owner. He talks to me as a dad at home."
And the Stampeders, he insists, are rarely the topic.
"I talk to my daughter more about football than Kevin," Michael Feterik said. "We don't tell him what's going on in the office, with the coaches or the players. That's the way we have to keep it, and he knows that's the relationship."
The arrangement was made clear when Calgary coach Jim Barker interviewed for his current post with the elder Feterik.
" 'When Kevin steps on the field it's going to be on his own merit and not because you're his dad,' " the coach recalled saying. " 'If he's not good enough, he's not going to be on the field.'
"They still hired me," Barker continued. "And Kevin is still here."
'A tough guy'
After Feterik completed 12 of 24 passes for 229 yards in his debut as a starter, Barker praised the performance. Feterik didn't throw any touchdown passes but did manage to score on a trick play — catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from running back Scott Diebert. He also weathered a strong hit on the goal line earlier in Calgary's first win of the season.
"He's a tough, tough competitor," Barker said. "I don't think there's any question about that."
A Catholic kid who stepped in and played for BYU when 65,000 people wanted a Mormon, Barker added, knows a thing or two about pressure.
"He's been through this before. He's a tough guy," he said. "I think he earned a lot of respect in the locker room today."
Kevin's father, who acknowledges his son has endured some tough times because of the ownership situation, is hopeful the monkey is now off both of their backs. It's now time to move forward, Michael Feterik said, and see what the younger Feterik can do.
"I've been looking forward to this all my life. I've always wanted to start in a professional football game," Kevin Feterik said. "Hopefully, I'll just keep improving each and every game."
It's an approach Jeff Garcia of the San Francisco 49ers endorses. The former Calgary quarterback attended Feterik's first start — serving as an honorary team captain on the sidelines.
"I think it's important for Kevin to realize he needs to take it one step at a time and not look too far into the future. Take advantage of opportunities and run with it," said Garcia, who advised Feterik to relax, let the game take care of itself, express complete confidence on the field and have fun. "He's in a situation that may not be all that easy just based upon his father owning the team. I think there's some scrutiny that's out there on him. Well, this is a perfect opportunity to shut people up in a certain way — to prove to people that he belongs, that he can lead this team."
Though far from perfect, Feterik's successful start provided Barker with evidence that the 25-year-old is capable of what he refers to as "seizing the moment."
It didn't, however, give Feterik any sense that the media scrutiny will lessen. After all, he's still the owner's son.
"It's always going to be there," he said. "With the media, it's always what have you done for me today."
The Canadian game
Determined not to waste time worrying about it, Feterik is focused on the future. He plans on playing until his skills diminish — or until coaches just don't want him anymore.
As for the CFL, Feterik likes playing north of the border. It took time, though, for him to assimilate to the bigger field and scoring that differs from American football. He recalls a game against Toronto early in his career that seemingly ended with a missed field goal. Feterik cheered before learning that because the ball sailed out of the end zone a point was awarded and the Stampeders lost.
"When you break it down, it's still football," Feterik said. "You've got your same routes. You run the ball and you throw the ball. It's two-down football, so obviously there's more urgency to get first downs and move the chains."
Canada presents other challenges as well. Feterik is still getting used to the long days. During the season, he explained, it stays light in Calgary until 11 p.m.
Dealing with the sun is one thing, communicating is another. Feterik may work in Canada, but he doesn't sound like a Canadian.
"I keep my California talk, so to speak, with the 'hey dudes' and all that," he said. "No 'ehs' for me."
Not yet, anyhow. This story, Feterik hopes, is far from over.