Stamps' Forzani growing into game

 Calgary Stampeders Johnny Forzani  in Calgary, Alberta, Saturday September 17, 2011.  AL CHAREST/...

Calgary Stampeders Johnny Forzani in Calgary, Alberta, Saturday September 17, 2011. AL CHAREST/ QMI AGENCY

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:27 AM ET

CALGARY - Johnny Forzani is playing catch-up.

In a business where there’s no substitute for experience, the Calgary Stampeders receiver estimates he has less than three dozen football games on his resume as he prepares for Sunday’s West Division semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.

Those are standard numbers for a CFL sophomore, except that’s not just a tally of Forzani’s professional pigskin appearances.

For the 22-year-old, that also includes his only season with the junior-level Calgary Colts and one campaign with the Washington State Cougars. The speedy pass-catcher didn’t even play football in high school.

“I think it’s crazy, but more for everybody else that hears that. But yeah, it still is pretty wild,” Forzani said. “I think it’s just natural athleticism and hard work my whole life in sports. It’s not like I just got off the couch and said, ‘I want to play some football now.’ All I’ve done my whole life is play sports and train my body. It’s not that surprising, really. I’ve just put my whole life into different sports — basketball, track, hockey when I was younger.”

Earlier this week, the Calgary product logged on to his Twitter account (@j4zani) and wrote, “Really excited to play in my first Playoff game. Side note- This will be my 30th football game.....ever.”

Upon further review, the number might be a bit larger than that.

Forzani figures he made seven appearances for the Colts and had nine outings with the Cougars, although he was strictly a special-teamer in several of those.

He dressed only once as a rookie with the Stamps but was in the lineup for all 18 regular-season games this season, finishing second on the team — and fifth among all non-import receivers in the CFL — with 761 receiving yards and five touchdown catches.

Forzani also ran practice routes for the Stamps during his campaign with the Colts, so the staff at McMahon Stadium has had a front-row seat for his emergence into a legitimate deep threat.

“From the first day — we were out here shooting jugs at him and a ball hit him in the forehead — to his first year running routes with us and not understanding how to set up a defensive back, he’s like a sponge. He really is. It’s amazing,” Stamps receivers coach Pete Costanza said. “I was just talking today on the field about how fast he’s been able to pick up and start using his talents ...

“That year he was out here with us, I told him, ‘treat it like a high school year.’ Then he got a year playing in college, ‘treat that like your freshman year.’ Then last year, he was sophomore, and this year, he’s a junior. As a junior, that’s when you start to say, ‘This guy should make plays. This guy should start producing.’ And he did.”

Forzani’s father, Tom, sits third on Calgary’s all-time receiving charts, having racked up 8,285 yards through the air from 1973-83.

The kid has a long way to go, but Forzani is optimistic he has a bright future ahead of him.

“If you look at it and say this is my fourth football season, for most people in this locker-room, their fourth season was when they were 12 or 13,” Forzani said. “You grow the most after you’ve been playing for five or six years. That’s when a lot of kids separate themselves. Most of the guys at this level are here or in the NFL because they peaked higher than everyone else. I don’t think I’ve even come close (to peaking).”


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