Lumsden believes in Ticats

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

His left shoulder surgically repaired, Jesse Lumsden is looking for much better things this season -- for himself and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The joint -- injured when he fell awkwardly while being tackled -- limited him to just 19 games over the last two Canadian Football League seasons. In nine games in 2008, he rushed for 584 yards and five touchdowns on 87 carries.

He underwent surgery after the season and yesterday said he's optimistic about 2009.

"The doctor did a great job and assured me everything was repaired. Now it's on me to do the rehab and the hard work I need to do to get me back to my best," the 26-year-old Edmonton native said before last night's London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction, where he was a head-table guest.

"When I woke up from the surgery, I felt positive that this was going to be a completely different year."

That would be nice for Lumsden and the Ticats, who have struggled mightily the last couple of seasons. Lumsden becomes a free agent Feb. 15 and while he said he has yet to sit down with new head coach Marcel Bellefeuille to talk contract, there's little doubt where his heart lies.

"I definitely want to be in Hamilton when this ship turns around," he said. "It's a great city to be in when you're winning. Hey, if the Arizona Cardinals can do it, we can do it. And they're my pick for the Super Bowl, by the way."

Winning is something he did frequently in Hamilton during his standout university career at McMaster, winning three Yates Cups under Greg Marshall, who is now the head coach at Western. After tryouts in the NFL with Seattle and Washington, he went to the Tiger-Cats and quickly became the face of Canadian running backs in the CFL.

It's a label that makes him feel uncomfortable.

"I'm not trying to think about that. If people want to put that on me, fine, but I'm very much a team-oriented guy. My No. 1 focus is always doing what I can to help the team get the win.

"But it's a part of pro sports that you get tagged under certain circumstances and it's an honour to be thought about that way. I've just got to keep pushing that door open."

And the next one through might be London native Daryl Stephenson. The Clarke Road grad went on to star at the University of Windsor, winning the Hec Crighton as the country's top university player in 2006 and finishing as the No. 1 all-time rusher in CIS history with 5,163 yards.

He re-signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last October and joined them after the Lancers' season ended.

"Getting the opportunity to back and play definitely puts him in a good position," Lumsden said of Stephenson, another head-table guest last night. "Now it comes down to how hard he's willing to work and what he's willing to give up. He's got to get ready for a hard training camp. It's a grind, and when you're out of your element, that shows what kind of character you have."

Lumsden, also a Hec Crighton winner, said there are a number of good Canadian running backs in the CFL and there always will be.

"Why should (the position) be reserved for Americans? Canadians are good enough and we're proving it. It's a mentality that's changing."


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