Cornish CFL's top Canuck

Jon Cornish - Calgary Stampeders
Jon Cornish
— image credit: Calgary Stampeders

Although New Westminster's Jon Cornish lost out in being the premier pigskin player in this country he was chosen as the best in the biz with a Canadian passport.

The Calgary Stampeders running back was named the Canadian Football League's Most Outstanding Canadian at an awards ceremony in Toronto on Thursday. However, as the West's representative for Most Outstanding Player he lost out to Toronto Argonauts wide receiver/kick returner Chad Owens.

They'll be facing off against each other Sunday as well as the Stamps and Argos play in the 100th Grey Cup at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Cornish led the CFL in rushing with 1,457 yards, the best in the league in three years by a Canadian or American. Throughout its storied history, running back has not been considered a position to be played by a Canadian.

"It's something I always take pride in," Cornish told when asked about not just being a Canadian running back, but about being a good running back without consideration for nationality.

"When I went down to college (at the University of Kansas), everybody thought I would, because I was Canadian, suck by default. Given the opportunity to start down there definitely changed a lot of minds on the quality of Canadian running backs.

"Coming up here it's exactly the same thing. It was predominately an American position. You take advantage of the opportunities you get. I worked into it."

After arriving in Calgary, he played behind all-star Joffrey Reynolds. But he wasn't satisfied with being a backup and he eventually become the starter.

"I came around to why can't I do this. Why can't I strive to be this, and put in the time to do this," Cornish said.

His rushing total broke a record for Canadian running backs set by Normie Kwong of the Edmonton Eskimos who is now a resident of Calgary.

"I've got to recognize Normie Kwong. Anybody that sets a record that lasts 56 years deserves recognition. He's a great Canadian," said Cornish during his acceptance speech.

"When I started out, I didn't really know what the best Canadian meant. But since I've been in the league so long, I've seen the quality of Canadian talent in this league. So I think that makes this award more special to me.

He spent much of Thursday express his gratitude to lots of people for helping him along his journey.

"The first people I thank are my parents for blessing me with the good genetic material I have, that I have been able to hone with the help of lots of different coaches throughout my life and put some time in with me. There's many of them," Cornish told

That group would include, of course, his coaches at St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby headed by K.C. Steele.

At a Grey Cup press conference earlier in the day on Thursday, Cornish talked about being one of five children raised by his mother, Margaret, on a music teacher's salary. Cornish said he has never met his father who died while he was attending Kansas.

Since then she has gone back to school and become an Anglican minister. She revealed to him when he was on a Christmas break from university that she was in a relationship with another woman, Andrea Mann, an official with the Anglican Church of Canada. The couple later married.

Cornish said it only took him about 15 seconds to process the information when his mother told him.

"I would like people to be more accepting [of gay people]," he said. "People are always surprised when I tell them the story about my mom's situation. "For me it's something I'm proud of. She's been through a lot and she finally found somebody that she loved. For me there is nothing more positive in the world."

After Sunday's Grey Cup, Cornish has committed to being the marshal for New Westminster's Christmas Parade of Lights on Dec. 1.

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