Top Canadian Cornish wants to be a role model
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
|Calgary Stampeders' Jon Cornish wins the Most Outstanding Canadian Player award in Toronto on November 22, 2012. (DAVE ABEL, QMI AGENCY)
TORONTO - Now that he's been officially labeled the most outstanding Canadian in the CFL, Jon Cornish hopes he has helped carve a path for others.
The 2012 season was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Calgary Stampeders running back, but the No. 1 thing he learned from it was how he could inspire young football players.
It took some negative reaction for him to realize the impact he could make just by being a No. 1 rusher.
During a run where Cornish exploded into the CFL rushing lead, the 28-year-old dropped his pants and mooned the crowd at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
The reaction across the country stunned the New Westminster, B.C., product, and he immediately apologized while making a donation to a children's charity.
In picking up the CFL's most outstanding Canadian award during the Gibson's Finest Awards on Thursday, Cornish feels now he can be a role model going forward, despite something that happened a couple months ago.
"I would say I let out all the immaturity I had left in that moment," Cornish said. "I don't want to say I took it for granted. But I didn't realize the impact I was having.
"I was trying to play my game, trying to be the best athlete I could in a vacuum. I didn't worry about what other people thought.
"Part of this season has really been learning what you do is in the public eye and people care.
"I've been cognizant of that. I want to be a good role model. That required some maturing. It's something I worked on and it's something I would like to be in the future."
This is the second straight year a running back won the top Canadian award after Edmonton Eskimo Jerome Messam did it last year.
Messam hit the 1,000-yard mark last year, but Cornish went above and beyond his outstanding season by a long shot.
Cornish set the Canadian rushing record with 1,457 yards while he was just behind Andrew Harris for most yards from scrimmage.
Along with Harris and possibly Messam if he returns to prominence with the Eskimos, this generation of Canadian running backs could rival the 1950s when Norm Kwong and Gerry James were leading the CFL.
Cornish thanked Harris and Kwong in his acceptance speech.
Just a few years ago, Canadians didn't get chances to rush the ball much.
Now that's changing, and Cornish is proving to be a great player and not just a great Canadian player.
"When I first go up to the CFL, I thought it would be a positive (being Canadian)," said Cornish, who came out of Kansas as a record-setting rusher.
"I was a bit surprised to see me being Canadian didn't matter. In fact, I would need to have a Canadian backup and that would create even more problems.
"When (John) Hufnagel took over, he did give me that chance. I've always said, when you have an opportunity, you have to seize it. They aren't always just given to you, so sometimes you have to create them.
"In this case, I was behind Joffrey Reynolds, a future Hall of Famer. I could have ridden the bench my entire career.
"I was continuing to work, striving to be better and learning from Joffrey. I was trying to create the opportunity I took advantage of."