Imagine going to work each day and watching someone else do the job you want.
Think about not complaining despite truly believing you could do a better job. Then add on the pressure that at any moment your boss might replace you with someone else before you even get a chance to impress him.
- Keron Williams
Such is the life of a backup player in the CFL. It can be an existence of worry and uncertainty. All a player can do is wait and take advantage when an opportunity is presented.
Maintaining that patience can be easier said than done.
"It's tough for sure,'' said B.C. Lions' backup quarterback Mike Reilly. "You want to play. You have your moments.
"You want to call your parents and vent a little bit, or call your buddy. You have to take a deep breath and realize your opportunity will come at some point. You have to prepare for it.''
The 27-year-old Reilly lived the dream of every backup when he was given his first CFL start because a shoulder injury kept Travis Lulay out of the Lions' game against the Edmonton Eskimos last Friday. Reilly shook off an interception on just his second pass attempt to complete 19 of 28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns in B.C.'s 39-19 victory. The win improved the Lions' record to 12-4 and clinched first place in the West.
It was the kind of performance that can kick-start a career. Already there is speculation the six-foot-three, 215-pound native of Kennewick, Wash., could quarterback the new team in Ottawa. He might even garner the interest of several existing teams.
Heady stuff for a third-year player who was in danger of being released last season. Reilly is smart enough to understand Lulay remains B.C.'s starting quarterback.
"It was fun to go out there and play, but who knows when the next time I will step on the field?'' he said with a shrug. "I will make sure to get ready to go whenever that is. That's how you have to approach it.''
The Lions are expected to give Lulay another week of rest and start Reilly again this Friday when they play the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.
Some backups are rookies looking for a break.
Running back Andrew Harris spent a year on B.C.’s practice roster while still playing junior football. He began getting playing time in 2010 as a kick returner and special teams player before taking over at the running back position last year.
This season the Winnipeg native leads the CFL with 1,727 total yards from scrimmage and is third in rushing with 1,025 yards. He easily could be the Lions' nominee as Most Outstanding Player and top Canadian.
Harris said keeping the big picture in focus isn't always easy, especially when you take a pounding in practice but watch games from the sideline.
"You have to stick with it,'' said the 25-year-old. "As a backup, if you show enough when you get an opportunity (maybe) you can end up on another team. That's the attitude you have to have.
"You have to stay on your game and always know your opportunity is coming sooner or later.''
Other backups are veterans looking to rejuvenate their career.