CALGARY - He’s No. 2 on the Calgary Stampeders’ depth chart at running back.
But according to TSN’s Duane Forde, backup ball-carrier Jon Cornish is the No. 1 Canadian-born player in the three-down football ranks.
On Monday night, the network aired a special on the CFL’s top homegrown talents, with the 26-year-old ball-carrier from New Westminster, B.C., winning bragging rights as the top non-import on current rosters.
“My mom phoned, and she told me, ‘There’s a special on Canadians,’ and she hadn’t seen me yet,” Cornish said with a grin after Tuesday’s morning practice at McMahon Stadium. “So I tuned in after commercials, and they said, ‘And the No. 1 Canadian in our poll is Jon Cornish.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, cool.’
“It is cool. Duane had told me in the interview, but I didn’t really know how the whole thing worked. I didn’t really put two and two together, I guess. For me, seeing it on TV, making it official, it was a big deal.
“It’s a pre-season accolade. I appreciate it, it’s a big deal, but I’ve now got to turn around and do it on the field.”
Cornish was the the only Stampeders player to crack Forde’s top-10 list, although the former CFL fullback and current analyst mentioned fourth-year right guard Dimitri Tsoumpas and rookie receiver Anthony Parker as guys that would likely be a factor in the future.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive lineman Doug Brown was Forde’s third-ranked Canuck, while Montreal Alouettes middle linebacker Shea Emery scored runner-up honours on a list that was watered down by the off-season departures of star receivers Ben Cahoon (retired) and Andy Fantuz (signed with NFL’s Chicago Bears).
According to Forde, Cornish earned the top billing thanks to his on-field performance and his success at a position usually dominated by Americans.
The former Kansas Jayhawks standout racked up 618 yards on 85 rushing attempts last season, averaging a league-best 7.3 yards per carry. He also added 226 yards and one major on 14 receptions, plus remained a frequent contributor on special teams.
“The guy is an outstanding football player. If he wasn’t on the same team as the outstanding Joffrey Reynolds, it would be impossible to keep Jon off the field whether he was Canadian or American,” Forde said. “When you can spot a Canadian running back and have no drop-off at the position, that’s huge. When he’s on the field, you can find a way to get an extra American on the field somewhere else in your offence. With Cornish at tailback, he gives the team great ratio flexibility.”
For Stamps fans, the best news is that Cornish likely still hasn’t reached his peak.
“There’s a lot great players in this league — and a lot of great Canadians — and I think this league gives Canadians the opportunity to really show who they are as football players,” Cornish said. “For me, being regarded at the top of that, that’s something I’ve aspired to be for a long time. But that’s not just all I want to be. I don’t want to just be known as a great Canadian — I want to be known as a great player overall. So for me, it’s just the first step.”