CALGARY - Calgary Stampeders receiver Johnny Forzani squeezed the touchdown pass and immediately pointed to the sky.
Making his first professional trip to the endzone just five days after the tragic passing of his friend Alex Conrad, Forzani was admittedly a little surprised by the spur-of-the-moment celebration.
“Super-big cliche. I’ve never liked when people do that,” Forzani said. “That’s just not what I do, but for some reason, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I felt him with me, honestly. I felt him with me from the beginning of the morning, from when I went out there, when I was practising, when I was warming up …
“I usually feel a bit more nervous before games — a little bit more pressure — and
I didn’t feel it at all. And actually, a lot more pressure was added to me because I had all my friends saying, ‘You’ve gotta get one for A-Con.’
“I’m really just happy I was able to do it for him.”
Conrad, who died Monday as the result of what Forzani called a “freak accident” after falling 40 feet off an escalator days earlier, was remembered at a memorial service a few hours before Saturday’s 38-31 victory over the Montreal Alouettes.
Forzani wasn’t able to attend the funeral, but he honoured his buddy in a big way during a rare CFL matinee at McMahon Stadium.
After hauling in a 15-yarder for his first career touchdown, Forzani didn’t wait long to score his second.
The speedy receiver snagged a 27-yard pass from quarterback Henry Burris just inside the stripe early in the fourth quarter, although the catch was washed out by an illegal block penalty on teammate and hulking left tackle Tony Washington.
Burris, though, spied Forzani again on the next play, hooking up with the sophomore for a 37-yard major he dedicated to his mother. The only downside was he also got an earful from head coach John Hufnagel after an objectionable conduct penalty, the result of tossing the ball away and hitting an Als defender in the aftermath of the play to make his second TD.
The son of CFL Hall-of-Famer and Stamps Wall-of-Famer Tom Forzani also notched his first 100-yard outing as a pro, finishing the afternoon with a half-dozen grabs for 101 yards.
“If I would’ve wrote the book before the game, this is exactly how I’d want it — a win, a touchdown for him and a win. He got it,” Forzani said.
Several other Stamps counted Conrad among their friends, and the significance of Forzani’s career-best performance wasn’t lost on any of his teammates.
“He played with a lot of weight on his heart this week. He lost a great friend of his in Alex and a great friend of all of ours, and he dedicated this game to Alex,” Burris said. “For him to go out and play that way, it just shows you that Alex’s spirit was with him.
“The guy was playing with something in him. He definitely went out and made the plays and helped us get a big win.”
Conrad was a manager at 1600 World Bier Haus, a restaurant in the city’s southwest. He was 25.
Forzani figures his longtime buddy — and one of his biggest supporters — would’ve been anxious to toast his success after Saturday’s win over the Alouettes.
“He would’ve called me, and he would’ve said, ‘Get your butt down to 1600 right now, and let’s celebrate.’ That’s what he would’ve said,” Forzani added. “He would’ve been so happy.”