MONTREAL — - It’s simple, really.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson was asked earlier this week why Montreal Alouettes slotback Ben Cahoon, who on Monday became the CFL’s receptions leader, is such a great receiver.
“He always catches the ball,” Johnson said.
Well, duh. The quarterback throws it. The receiver catches it. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to happen?
Where it gets complex, however, is when that football is thrown too high or two low or too far ahead or too far behind or into serious traffic or — as was the case in a game against Saskatchewan last year — against a defensive back’s helmet.
Those complexities don’t seem to bother Cahoon, though. Not one bit. He makes every catch appear simple. And that is why he is the CFL’s new catching king. He caught pass No. 1,007 on Monday in a win over the Calgary Stampeders to take over top spot from Terry Vaughn.
“He makes catches that some guys dream of making,” Johnson said. “He makes those unbelievable catches. He makes the tough catches, whether it’s going through traffic or jumping up high in the air or catching balls off of guys’ heads.
“He makes the catches. That’s what makes him great.”
The “helmet” catch was made in 2009, when Cahoon leveraged the ball against Roughrider safety James Patrick’s helmet to make the grab. That was likely the most spectacular of the 38-year-old’s career, but there have been plenty of other highlight-reel snags.
The grace with which he goes parallel to the turf, sticks his hands out and sucks the ball in is astounding. Those would fall under the category of which Johnson speaks; the catches other receivers can make only when they’re sleeping.
“Not many guys can do those types of things, but he’s one of the few that can do that: actually be able to control his body and also focus on catching the ball,” Johnson said.
Cahoon, in typical Cahoon fashion, downplayed his ability to make the tough grab.
“I’ve always been a diver and a jumper,” Cahoon said. “I grew up playing soccer, and I was always getting tripped and doing a somersault and getting right back up.
“Things tend to slow down a little bit when you leave your feet — for me, anyway.”
Bomber slotback Terrence Edwards spent a year and a half in Montreal as Cahoon’s teammate and then another two seasons with the CFL’s touchdown and receiving yards king, Milt Stegall, in Winnipeg.
Edwards pointed out that the only time Cahoon stands out is when he’s literally in the process of making a reception. Any other time, he just looks like a regular dude.
“He’s one of those guys who uses every inch of his abilities on the field,” Edwards said. “He’s not overly fast, he’s not big, he’s not tall — he’s not nothing. But he goes out there and produces and puts up big numbers.
“He’s a great route runner, and he knows the game, and he has phenomenal hands. He rarely drops the ball, no matter how many defenders are around him. He catches the ball. And you gotta catch a lot of balls to get 1,007 catches.”
Like Stegall, Edwards believes Cahoon is one of the hardest-working professional football players you’re likely to find.
“He was the first one there and the last one to leave,” Edwards said. “He was in the weight room. He’s a guy who puts in his time. You just see what he does on game day, but on days that he’s off he’s there keeping his body in shape. He’s very durable.
“You gotta be durable to play as long as he has and have as many catches as he has.”
Not only is he durable, but he is also reliable. Touchdowns would happen less frequently if the chains weren’t moved on a regular basis, and the latter is what Cahoon does. It’s why you hear Molson Stadium public address announcer Jacques Moreau bellow “Ben Ca-hoooooooon!” so often.
“He does it better than anyone,” Edwards said. “He’s just one of those prototypical possession receivers. If you need a play on second down or third down to get a first down, you look for Ben.”
The low-key Cahoon, a few days after breaking the record, was already looking forward to his next goal.
“I haven’t thought about (the record). I’ve been crazy busy,” Cahoon said. “The family’s in town, and I’m trying to get ready for this upcoming game (on Sunday against Winnipeg). That’s the way I like it.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a goal of mine at the beginning of the season, but it’s not the ultimate goal. So check it off the list, and we’re off to bigger and better things.”