CALGARY - Jamel Richardson refers to himself as Optimus Prime, which is quite an apt nickname.
Not only does the Montreal Alouettes slotback carry a load like a semi-truck when going across the middle, he’s also transforming the thinking of what is most important on an offence.
While there is no doubting the quarterback is the key piece to a CFL team, Richardson has worked his way into being the most crucial player on the Alouettes offence this season.
Anthony Calvillo is the reigning three-time East Division most outstanding player nominee (winning the league award twice), but exactly where would the CFL’s all-time leading passer be without his go-to target this season?
Richardson has 1,661 yards in 15 games this season, and he needs just one more 100-yard outing in the final two weeks to set the all-time record for most such games in a single season (12).
Even when Calvillo hasn’t played well, as was the case Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when he threw for 199 yards and three interceptions, that didn’t stop Richardson from performing.
Against the Bombers, Richardson had 102 yards on five receptions, upping his lead over Geroy Simon to 471.
With the way the voting works with the Football Reporters of Canada, the Montreal chapter will have to decide who the Alouettes’ nominee will be for most outstanding player.
It’s not an easy one, and it’s tough to vote against Calvillo. Also in the running is running back Brandon Whitaker, who leads the CFL in rushing (1,295) and yards from scrimmage (1,894).
Richardson could finish with the biggest lead over the second-place receiver since Simon had a 486-yard lead over Arland Bruce in 2006.
The Alouettes have basically clinched the triple crown categories with two weeks remaining, as Calvillo has a 595-yard lead over Travis Lulay for second in yardage.
The 29-year-old clearly has dominated the second half of the season. He leads the CFL in yards after the catch (626) and second-down catches for a first down (40), which is a good indication of how important he is to Calvillo’s success.
Just one more time over the century mark and he breaks the mark he shares with Hal Patterson (Montreal 1956), Joey Walters (Saskatchewan ’81), Terry Greer (Toronto ’83) and Allen Pitts (Calgary ’94).
Now he just has to prove to those in his own market how great a season he’s having.
In the past 47 years of Canadian football, only three homegrown running backs have hit the 1,000-yard mark. Now, there is an outside shot at two in the same year.
Had Jon Cornish taken over for Joffrey Reynolds as the Calgary Stampeders’ starter earlier than five games ago, he would have been a lock for 1,000 yards. As it stands now, Cornish has 502 yards in five starts, moving him up to sixth in the rushing race (754), and he would need 246 yards in the final two weeks to hit 1,000.
Edmonton Eskimos’ Jerome Messam will be the fourth Canuck to reach the 1,000-yard mark unless he gets hurt. Messam needs just 36 yards to reach the milestone and join Sean Millington (2000, B.C.), Orville Lee (1988, Ottawa) and Bob Swift (’64, B.C.).
The race for most outstanding Canadian in the West Division will come down to Cornish and Messam, and it should be one that goes to a photo finish. Messam leads Cornish in yards from scrimmage (1,171 to 1,112).