HAMILTON -- Jesse Lumsden will have some other things on his mind each time he tucks the ball under his massive arms in 2008.
As the Hamilton Tiger-Cats running back spent the winter recovering from a shoulder injury that ended his 2007 season late last September, he spent some time in El Salvador, working on a mission with World Vision.
"It was a good experience, a humbling experience," the 25-year-old said yesterday after practice at McMaster University. "It opened my eyes. We were down there helping some families. I was able to sponsor a little kid I met, and he is my little buddy now. (World Vision) contacted me about going, and I gladly hopped on board."
When Lumsden is not doing good things in far-flung corners of the world, he would love nothing more than to continue the pace he was on last season before he was hurt in a game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Lumsden rumbled for 743 yards on 98 carries, an average of a whopping 7.6 yards that was tops among all CFL running backs. Despite playing in only 10 games, Lumsden was the Ticats' nominee for the league's most outstanding Canadian.
Hamilton head coach Charlie Taaffe knows there are no boundaries to the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Lumsden's potential if he stays healthy.
"It is unlimited," Taaffe said. "He is on track to be right with the top couple of backs in this league in rushing.
"This is the CFL, which traditionally is a passing league, and that won't change. But when we have a legitimate back like Jesse, you do not want to be one-dimensional."
Lumsden, who had brief stints with the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks but did not play a game for either NFL club, remains sour not only with the Ticats' 3-15 record in 2007 but also because he had to watch from the sideline on many nights.
"I hate watching, but it is in the past," Lumsden said. "I want to be part of the team, help it win and be on the field."
Will Lumsden be able to stay on his feet for as much average yardage as he did a year ago? Taaffe thinks so.
And though Lumsden was quick to credit the offensive line -- "I can't do my job without them and they are awesome," he said -- Taaffe figured there is more to it than that.
"When seams aren't there, he has the power to turn a two-yard gain into a four- or five-yard gain," Taaffe said.
"He has the acceleration, which we saw last year with several runs of 50-plus yards when he just ran away from people. Some guys have the vision, and some guys don't, but Jesse definitely has it."