EDMONTON - Jerome Messam is looking at the back 40.
That’s how many yards the Edmonton Eskimos running back has before hitting the 1,000-rushing-yard mark on the season.
But instead of looking like a prized stallion, he almost turned into the goat of Friday’s game when he fumbled the ball away trying to run out the clock.
“I was just trying to fight for extra yards. A D-lineman held me up and I think it was (Lin-J) Shell that came and stripped it,” said Messam, who ended up with 115 yards on 19 carries. “I’ve got to be smarter than that, I just got caught up in the moment.”
The problem was, that moment became an inopportune time that extended the Toronto Argonauts’ comeback drive.
“There again, is also a lesson to be learned,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “Jerome has to wrap the ball up. There is a situation there where you don’t need extra yards. You put two hands on the ball, secure the ball and the game’s probably over.
“That’s a lesson that he’s going to learn, the fortunate thing is that we got the win. The unfortunate thing is he had to learn the lesson that way.”
But if there has been one thing you can’t accuse Messam of, it’s not learning from his mistakes.
“We’ve decided that he’s probably the centrepiece of our offence,” said Reed. “We knew going in that we wanted a big back that can really pound on defences, that would help us in protection and also open up our passing game.
“That situation took a while to come to fruition but in the second half of the season, that run game has been established and we need that moving forward.”
Forward into rarely travelled territory, it turns out.
Forty more yards over the next two games would make him just the third Canadian in 47 years to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
“I’m 40 short now?” Messam asked. “It’s weighing on me a little bit but I’m not trying to show it.
“I’m not trying to think too much about it, just focus on what I can control and continue doing what I’m doing and it will all take care of itself.”
As impressive as it would be to reach the feat, Messam’s real motivation comes from the people who never believed he could get there in the first place.
“I’ve had a lot of doubters, I’ve had a lot of haters in my career. A lot of people told me I was too big to play this position,” he said. “A lot of people told me that I was a hoodlum.
“Nobody really knows Jerome Messam. So the nay-sayers and people that doubt me, I just use it as fuel for the fire.”
HOME RUN: In his two trips back to his native southern Ontario this season, Messam earned 254 yards on 34 combined carries against Hamilton and Toronto.
“Yeah, I guess it’s something about the water here, man,” Messam said. “It feels good to be home.”
IN AND OUT: LB J.C. Sherritt (ankle) flew home with an air cast on after leaving Friday’s game in the second quarter. It was the rookie phenom and team-leading tackler’s first time he missed any part of a game due to injury. LB Rod Davis left the fourth quarter with cramps and will resume practising this week.