STATE COLLEGE, Pa. | Christian Veilleux’s football career has been marked by sacrifices. The Penn State quarterback left Canada at age 16 to play soccer in the United States, lost his high school soccer season to COVID and returned to the field after two years only to play with lingering flu symptoms closest to him made the day speechless.
He was also part of college football’s historic freshman class who were able to sign endorsement deals through NIL but are largely ineligible as a Canadian on an F-1 student visa. So what drives him next?
“My journey,” said Veilleux. “Being where I’m from, all the sacrifices I’ve made to get here, I think that’s what drives me.”
Veilleux, a redshirt freshman from Ottawa, brings one of the most compelling stories to Penn State’s 2022 season. He is the quarterback between Sean Clifford, the sixth-year senior and fourth-year starter, and two highly regarded true freshmen in Drew Allar and Beau Pribula. He’s the Penn State quarterback fighting for eyes between the veteran and the future.
But Veilleux understands the value of sacrifice. He began at Ottawa’s Gridiron Academy, an elite football training program where Canadians begin their journey, as Veilleux put it, “down south”. Penn State’s Jonathan Sutherland and Jesse Luketa were also educated at Gridiron Academy.
At 16, Veilleux left Canada for Canisius High in Buffalo. As a sophomore, he threw for 1,693 yards and 17 touchdowns before transferring again to Maryland’s Bullis School.
After throwing for 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, Veilleux was poised for a big breakthrough with the seniors, but the Bullis School canceled their 2020 season due to COVID. However, Veilleux already had big college offers and chose Penn State.
As a freshman, Veilleux gradually climbed Penn State’s depth chart and became the No. 2 quarterback in mid-November. Still, he never imagined his eventual return to the field.
The Thursday before Penn State played Rutgers last November was great. The quarterbacks had dinner together and everyone had a good time. On Friday, much of the team was suffering from flu-like symptoms and attached to IV units, including the quarterbacks.
“It was bad, man,” said Veilleux. “I didn’t know what was going to happen on Saturday.”
Veilleux was among those cleared to play on Saturday morning so he mentally prepared for the start. Though Clifford made an effort, the starter was clearly not healthy, and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich tapped Veilleux in the first quarter and said, “You’re up.”
Still not feeling well (he was coughing in the group), Veilleux hadn’t thrown a pass in a live game in more than two years and was making his debut at Beaver Stadium. His performance in the Lions’ 28-0 win over Rutgers was all the more extraordinary.
Veilleux finished 15 for 24 for 235 yards and three touchdowns and went 6 for 9 in the third quarter. Veilleux also rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries and became Penn State’s first true freshman quarterback to have a touchdown since Christian Hackenberg in 2013 -Pass threw.
“With [Veilleux], it’s different,” former Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson said after the game. He’s ready for the moment since he came in here. He practiced like that, played like that, and he finally got to show you his talent today.”
Veilleux didn’t have much more to say on Sunday and is still proud of how he overcame the illness. Adrenaline and training carried him.
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“I had to make it work,” he said. “I was the only guy that could go in that day because everyone else was sick. I wouldn’t say it really affected my confidence because I only really thought about it on the field or during the game afterwards. . .. I just forgot I was ill.”
Veilleux played in two games last season, replacing Clifford in the Outback Bowl when the starter left with an undisclosed injury. That was stressful, too, considering Penn State started Veilleux’s drive at his own 9-yard line 14 down in the fourth quarter.
Every experience helps. Additionally, Franklin said last spring that Veilleux had built on his success against Rutgers, while Clifford said the quarterback kept pushing him.
“You never really know what you’re going to have with your backup quarterback until they come in and get legitimate playing time,” Franklin said. “It’s valuable and he builds on it every day and every week.”
Ultimately, Veilleux wants to build some NIL opportunities, but that could require federal action. Veilleux is set in the United States on an F-1 student visa that limits its holder’s ability to make money.
In essence, international students attending US schools on such visas cannot earn money through off-campus activities. There are rare exceptions, such as B. Internships, but US NIL opportunities are excluded. In fact, an immigration attorney told the Associated Press that international students who sign NIL agreements risk having their visas revoked.
This presents a unique situation for Veilleux considering that Clifford started his own NIL agency and Veilleux’s girlfriend, who runs the track at Penn State, signed to her.
“I need someone who can read that thing and figure out what’s going on,” he said.
Another sacrifice for the future. But Veilleux has a goal.
“At the end of the day, if I don’t make it, I think it’s all for naught,” he said. “My parents sent me here, I’ve done so much. I have to achieve what I set out to do.”
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AllPennState is Penn State’s place for news, opinions and perspectives on the SI.com network. Editor Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @ Mark Wogenrich. And subscribe to more great content on the SI.com network (buttons on the home page).