Jon Cornish is Canada’s top athlete. (Ztella from Wikimedia Commons)
Imagine Adrian Peterson working as a bank teller during the offseason because his salary from the NFL couldn’t sustain him year-round. That’s exactly what Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish does. When Cornish won the 2013 Lou Marsh award and was named Canada’s top athlete, Stampeders communications director Jean Lefebvre had to call the bank to let him know. Reporters had to wait to schedule a conference call with Cornish until he was on his lunch break.
If you’re into sports betting in Canada and you’re betting on the Stampeders, then you may make more money than Cornish himself. Even though Cornish isn’t getting Peterson’s $8 million annual salary, he’s been the top Canadian athlete for two consecutive years in the Canadian Football League (CFL). He broke his own record last year for rushing yards, led the league in yards from scrimmage and scored 14 touchdowns. If that’s not enough to make you love him, then you’ll love that the first person he told about the Lou Marsh award was his mother. It’s easy to see how Canada’s best athlete is also one of its most popular.
Getting a Little Cheeky
Of course, no one’s perfect, and Cornish is no exception. Back in 2012, the Stampeders lost to the Saskatchewan Roughriders 30-25, and he was so frustrated that he turned his back to the Saskatchewan fans, dropped his trousers and gave them a full moon. Cornish had been trolling the Riders’ online fan forums, leaving comments and tweaking the fans for some time, but the conversation within the forums had become so hostile that he’d stopped interacting.
After the mooning, he continued provoking Riders’ fans on Twitter. However, the Stampeders front office wasn’t happy with the incident. They fined Cornish, and he publicly apologized for his err… cheekiness. Still, if you’re a Stampeders fan, you can’t help but love his passion for the rivalry. As Cornish himself told the Calgary Herald, “Why can’t you just be a good guy who is reviled by one specific group of people?”
Finally, a Little Bit of Love for Canadian Football
Cornish had some stiff competition this year for the Marsh award. Tennis phenom Milos Raonic became the first Canadian man to break into the ATP Top 10 — a remarkable achievement considering Canada’s struggles to produce top tennis quality — especially on the men’s side. No one from the CFL had won the Marsh award since legendary Ottawa Renegades quarterback Russ Jackson in 1969.
Jon Cornish has been busting CFL marks. (Jim Wells/Calgary Sun)
In his interview with reporters, Cornish said that he hoped his award would inspire other players and encourage Canadians to give more recognition to outstanding football players. Imagine a country in which football players have to fight for the spotlight. Canada really is different from the United States.
If you’re a high draft pick in the CFL, you may earn a signing bonus and a salary of $50,000 per year. Every team has a mandatory salary cap of $4.2 million, which the league strictly enforces. The highest pay rate for players is around $500,000 per year. The CFL season lasts for six months, and players have to come in early for training and stay fit during the offseason. It’s not a bad middle-class living, although most middle class workers skip the risk of broken bones and concussions.
What’s Ahead for Canada’s Best
Cornish’s rhetoric against the Riders has cooled down over the past year. These days, he’s chasing Stampeders legend Willie Burden in the record books. In 2013, Cornish broke Burden’s record for the most yards from scrimmage in a season. He also tied Burden’s record of rushing for more than 100 yards in five consecutive games. Cornish accomplished all of this in just his second season as a Stamps starter.
Cornish was Calgary’s second round draft pick in 2006. During his senior year at the University of Kansas, he led the Big 12 with 1,457 rushing yards. Although it took a few years, Cornish has become arguably the best running back in the CFL. Now — as validated by the Lou Marsh award — he’s become arguably the best athlete in the True North Strong and Free.
Danny Marcel is a CFL fan, and he loves to wager on Canadian football.