Johnson in a rush

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The Trevis Smith debacle has kept one of the feel-good stories of the year in the CFL mostly under wraps.

With football reporters across the country following Smith and his HIV story, Jeff Johnson's fabulous tale has been ignored outside of Toronto.

In the last 10 quarters, the Canadian running back has put on quite a show for the Argos.

He has amassed nearly 160 rushing yards, 272 receiving yards and three TDs.

But those aren't the impressive numbers.

In the last two and half games, he has an 8.4 yard rushing average and a stunning 19.4-yard receiving average.

This comes after literally waiting almost four years in T.O. for a chance to shine.

From 2002 to this summer, Johnson had run the ball for just 92 yards.

But back in 2001, he was a rapidly rising prospect for the Tiger-Cats.

In fact, he rushed for 109 yards against the Eskimos in one game that summer.

However, he was replaced a few games later by an even more promising prospect - Troy Davis.

Just like that, Johnson's career in Hamilton was done.

"I was a little disturbed," said Johnson on the phone this weekend. But it didn't take long for him to learn the frustrating politics of the game.

"There is a preconceived notion that (the running back positions) should be filled by Americans," continued Johnson.

Knowing he still wanted to play pro football, he signed with the Argos in 2002 and realized special teams work was the only way he was going to earn a paycheque.

Four years later, the 28-year-old York University grad has watched his career come full circle, thanks to injuries to John Avery and Sean Millington. The question is: Will Toronto coach Pinball Clemons hand the ball back to a healthy Avery when he returns for the East final in two weeks or stay with Johnson?

SHORT YARDAGE: There is only word to describe Ottawa owner Lonie Glieberman's decision to fire head coach Joe Paopao and his staff before the final game of the year: classless ... There is already concern across the league about John Jenkins taking the Ottawa coaching reins and he hasn't even been formally introduced. Remember, this is the same Jenkins that was fired as offensive co-ordinator in Calgary last year after six games. This is also the same Jenkins who resigned from the University of Houston amid allegations of breaking recruiting rules and showing images of naked women during film sessions.

LATE HITS: Coming to a new team soon: Josh Ranek. Jenkins is known for one thing - passing. "You could say over the years I've been known for relentless air raids," Jenkins told the Calgary Sun after being hired by the Stamps. Ranek - one of the top runners in the league - rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season for the Renegades.

EXTRA POINTS: Winnipeg's Charles Roberts should be the most outstanding player nominee from the West Division. The league's leading rusher, nobody has more yards from scrimmage this year ... There is a suggestion making the rounds that Danny McManus could be coming to Edmonton if Jason Maas is traded to the Tiger-Cats. This much is certain: with third-string QB Jason Johnson only throwing five passes in two years in Edmonton, the Eskimos will undoubtedly chase another veteran if Maas leaves ... How pleased do you think Glieberman was to see Paopao put QB Kerry Joseph back in the game in the second half Saturday? Joseph ran the ball five consecutive times to reach 1,000 yards on the season, triggering a $10,000 bonus.

HIT & MISS

HIT

Kerry Joseph became just the third CFL QB to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

MISS

Montreal backup QB Ted White was brutal Friday, starting and tossing three picks.

HIT

With all the off-field distractions, Rider coach Danny Barrett somehow keeps his team together to beat B.C.

NUMBERS GAME

5 - Number of wins Ottawa had in the first eight weeks of the season.

2 - The number of wins Ottawa had in the final 12 weeks.

3 - Toronto QBs Michael Bishop and Charlie Peterson each threw three picks Saturday.

5 - Hamilton was winless on the road this year, but won five times at home.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"The thing that concerns me is the impression ... that we're running a team of hoodlums."

- Riders GM Roy Shivers

"It is sad to see him go. He was like a dad to us."

- Ottawa's Kerry Joseph on Joe Paopao

"I even miss Don (Matthews) - but I don't miss him stealing my girlfriends."

Former Montreal DT Adriano Belli

GAME OF THE WEEK

STAMPS VS. ESKIMOS

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 4 P.M., CBC, 630 CHED

The Stamps try for their third straight win against the Eskimos. Ricky Ray hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in five games. Can he solve that problem against the Stampeders and send the Eskimos into the Western final?


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