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Luke Tasker, CFL receiving machine, signs new deal with Hamilton

Luke Tasker is having himself a great career in the Canadian Football League. And the arrow still is going up.

Tasker signed a two-year contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Monday, just before the start of CFL free agency.

Tasker, son of Bills great Steve Tasker, is coming off the best of his five seasons in the CFL. He caught 104 passes for 1,167 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. His catch total was a franchise record and tied for second in the CFL. His yardage total was sixth in the league.

"I'm very excited to sign back there," Tasker told The News. "I've really enjoyed my time in the CFL, and Hamilton has become a second home for me and my wife. I had a pretty good season last year. I was happy the team and I came to an agreement because we really did want to stay in Hamilton if it was possible."

Tasker was a two-time, first-team All-Western New Yorker for St. Francis High School in 2007 and 2008 and then starred at Cornell University. He already ranks eighth in Hamilton history in catches (341) and 11th in yards (4,224). He's a three-time CFL East all-star.

Hamilton finished 6-12 last year but has high hopes for improvement because legendary offensive strategist June Jones is starting his first full season as Ti-Cats head coach.

Jones helped popularize the run-and-shoot offense with Jim Kelly and the Houston Gamblers in the USFL in 1984. His teams have been putting up giant passing numbers in all his coaching stops, from Houston, Detroit and Atlanta in the NFL to Hawaii and Southern Methodist in the college ranks.

After starting last season 0-8, Hamilton coach Kent Austin moved upstairs to head of football operations and inserted Jones as head coach. The Ti-Cats went 6-4 the rest of the way. In the final eight games, Tasker led the CFL in targets and catches.

"He's really smart, not only about the design of that kind of offense, but the design is only going to work as well as you can teach it," Tasker said. "He can explain the details and expand on the rules and how they apply to each position really well."

There are a lot of option routes for the receiver, and the 27-year-old Tasker has the experience and intelligence to execute depending on the defensive coverage. At 5-foot-11, 191 pounds, he is a Julian Edelman of the CFL.

"In a lot of ways compared to the offenses I've run, there's a lot less memorization," Tasker said. "In some ways it's a lot simpler. At the same time there are a lot of decisions that have to be made on the field in a split second by receivers.  ... One play call in the huddle can really turn into a variety of plays once the ball is snapped."

"Luke is a leader in our locker room and has developed into one of the best receivers in the Canadian Football League,” Jones said in a statement. “He’s got an outstanding skill set, and his unselfish play and toughness are exactly the kind of attributes that we want to personify in the football team."

After graduating from Cornell, Tasker spent the 2013 training camp with the San Diego Chargers and was among the final cuts that summer. He had a tryout with the New York Jets a few weeks ago.

"I thought I had a pretty good workout, but it didn’t really turn into a contract offer," Tasker said. "We were right in the middle of negotiations with Hamilton. It felt right for us to take that."

CFL media outlets have estimated Tasker was playing for about $150,000 Canadian last season, although CFL salary information is not common knowledge. The minimum CFL salary is $54,000.

It has been a great offseason for Tasker regardless of his new contract. Six weeks ago, he and his wife, Jenna, welcomed their first child to the world. His name is Steele, which is Luke's middle name and the name of an uncle on his mom's side of the family.

"It's just so nice being so close to home," Tasker said. "My wife teaches music and is able to do that through the season as well. It's been a blessing being so close."

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