WINNIPEG - Maybe the Montreal Alouettes, who all of a sudden are having trouble selling out Molson Stadium, should play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home all the time.
That’s because Cory Watson, the Bombers’ super sophomore slotback, will have boatloads of friends and family watching Sunday’s first-place showdown at the McGill University park. That includes eight of his nine siblings.
“All my family, friends and coaches are going to be there, so it’s going to be a nice tribute to everything that they’ve done for me,” Watson said.
It’s been 15 years since the Bombers had a Canadian pass catcher of Watson’s calibre.
He is 11th in CFL receiving with 45 grabs for 546 yards, and he produced his first career 100-yard outing in Sunday’s Banjo Bowl loss.
He was the first Canadian pass catcher in Blue and Gold to top the century mark since Arjei Franklin did it in September 2007.
Other than that pesky little two-game losing streak the Bombers are on, life couldn’t be much better for Watson.
“Personally I’m happy to be where I’m at right now,” Watson said. “From last year my progression has been good, so I’m really happy about that.”
Watson, whom the Bombers drafted ninth overall out of Montreal’s Concordia University last year, had the usual rookie season: full of more downs than ups.
He landed a starting job out of training camp but got hurt and then ended up on special teams when he returned.
Now he’s in a personal and professional rhythm. He lives in Chris Cvetkovic’s basement, because the Bomber long snapper played with Watson’s uncle at Concordia.
Watson knows Winnipeg better, he understands what it’s like to be a pro, and he feels more comfortable overall. Heck, he even helps out with Cvetkovic’s two kids now and then.
“If I need to help out, why not?” Watson said. “I grew up with all those brothers and sisters, right?”
Watson is second on the team in receiving yards, trailing only Terrence Edwards, but he leads the Blue and Gold with 45 catches — 11 of which were for first downs on second down.
In other words, he’s becoming Buck Pierce’s go-to receiver.
“He’s just grown up,” Pierce said. “Last year … it happens to rookies. They get overwhelmed. He was thrown into a role early that a lot of rookies aren’t ready for. I’m not saying he wasn’t, but he really showed his growth over the course of last year.
“He came to training camp this year, and he knew his assignments, knew his book, was just more mature. That’s just part of the growing process, but he’s doing a great job.”
Watson is doing a great enough job that he’s challenging Shawn Gore as the top Canadian receiver in the league. Gore, who was drafted one spot behind Watson last spring at 10th overall, has a 15-yard edge going into this weekend’s action.
“It’s a fun rivalry,” Watson said. “We came from the same conference (Gore played at Bishop’s), so it’s something to really work for.”
That battle continues on Sunday, and Watson’s cheering section will be a big one.