Cornish's citizenship a huge boost for Stamps

Stampeders' Jon Cornish walks on the field during team practice ahead of Sunday's 100th Grey Cup in...

Stampeders' Jon Cornish walks on the field during team practice ahead of Sunday's 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. (REUTERS)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

TORONTO - Coming back home after a solid college career at Kansas, Jon Cornish says he had no idea of the challenges facing a Canadian running back in his homeland.

Blissfully unaware that it would be a lengthy process for a domestic back to break into a starting position, over time he came to understand. And now, the fact that Cornish is among the best in the league is a huge advantage for a Stampeders offence that has a wide array of weapons.

Besides his obvious production on the field — Cornish led the CFL with 1,457 rushing yards this season, the first Canadian back to do so in more than a quarter of a century — the flexibility it creates elsewhere on the roster is invaluable.

“When I first got to the CFL, I thought (being a Canadian) would be a positive,” Cornish said this week. “When I came up, I was a little surprised that me being Canadian didn’t really matter. In fact, because I would need a Canadian backup, that created more problems.

“But now that I am a starter and we’ve got an extra American wide receiver on the field (in Maurice Price), it’s a pretty big positive.”

The addition of Price has been a huge development for the Stamps down the stretch, showing yet again the value of finding a Canadian who can produce at a skill position. Even if it takes some time to get there.

JUST FOR KICKS

He admits the signed Noel Prefontaine jersey he acquired as a kid is stored away, at least for Grey Cup week, but Stampeders punter Rob Maver has no problem admitting the Argos veteran was his idol as a young player. Maver, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, was a regular at Argos games at the Rogers Centre and as an aspiring kicker took mental notes. “I came out here a lot when I was a kid,” Maver said on Friday, looking around the empty dome following Stampeders practice. “It’s really cool coming back here to where football all started for me. When I was younger, I tried to look at things (Prefontaine) did in games and incorporate them into my game.” ... Like most former CIS players in this year’s Cup, Maver was impressed with word that 30,000 plus were expected for Friday’s Vanier Cup between defending champion McMaster and Laval. “It’s amazing for the Canadian game,” said Maver, a graduate of the University of Guelph. “The CIS is where it starts for the majority of talent in our league so it’s great to showcase the best of that. To do it together with (the Grey Cup) is awesome.”

SECOND DOWN

Cornish, by the way, had several NFL suitors willing to sign him as a free agent out of college after he went undrafted. But whether he perceived the lack of interest as a snub or not, he didn’t take a shot and instead went straight to Calgary, who selected him 13th overall in 2006 ... Apparently 1,457 is a magic number for the B.C. native. It was his league-leading rushing total this year and the same number he put up at Kansas in his senior season, which was then a record for the Jayhawks and was tops in the Big 12 Conference ... Among the many former CFL greats expected in town for the 100th edition is quarterback Doug Flutie, who has won Grey Cups with each of this year’s participants. In an interview with TSN Radio, however, Flutie was noncommittal about who he will be supporting on Sunday ... Some have wondered about us including quarterback Damon Allen on the list of superstar quarterbacks who have been coached by Stamps coach and GM, John Hufnagel. The two worked together in B.C. in the late 1990s when Hufnagel was a coaching consultant with the Leos ... Neither team is putting too much stock into the two regular-season meeting, both Argos victories. “We’ve grown as a football team but so have they,” Hufnagel said on Friday.

THIRD AND LONG

For the second consecutive day, the Stamps blasted crowd noise into the Rogers Centre during offensive drills. It may have been the loudest the dome has been so far this season ... Will the noise be a factor on Sunday? It might get loud, but Stamps quarterback Kevin Glenn doubts it will match the decibel level at the West final last week in B.C. “It sure couldn’t,” Glenn said. “That place, it seems like the audio guy actually turns the speaker on and then lets the fans scream and the screams come through the speaker. I don’t know if can get any louder than that, especially with fans coming in from all over. I don’t think it will be as bad as in B.C. and we handled that crowd.” ... Glenn has been around the CFL long enough to recognize the spell Tim Hortons has on Canadians. So much so that he has partnered in ownership of a couple Timmies franchises in his native Detroit ... While Cornish has undeniably been a huge part of the Stamps offence, he was a bit player in the team’s two meetings with the Argos this year running for 43 yards on 12 carries in the first meeting and seven for 39 in the second. Both were Calgary losses and in both, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian didn’t reach the end zone. “If I don’t run for more than (50 yards on Sunday), I’ll be disappointed,” Cornish said. And probably on the losing side.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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