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April 19, 2017

White horse keeps galloping

Running back Jerome Messam during the 2016 season (Photo by David Moll)

The names may change but the results are the same.

Over the past nine CFL seasons, three different Stamps players have combined to win six rushing titles. Jerome Messam, who galloped for a league-best 1,198 yards in 2016, is the latest Red and White running back to earn the rushing crown, joining Joffrey Reynolds (back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009) and Jon Cornish (three in a row from 2012-14).

Messam leads all active CFLers with three career 1,000-yard seasons and is third in yards with 4,468. It’s a remarkable turn of events for a guy who in 2013 was traded from Edmonton to Montreal for a sixth-round draft pick and then was released the following year because the Alouettes said his salary was too high for his projected role as a fullback.

In a sign of how Canadian tailback talent has blossomed in recent years, two of three active rushing leaders – Messam and Andrew Harris of the Blue Bombers, who is No. 1 with 5,233 yards – are homegrown.

In addition, Cornish and Messam have combined to win four of the past five CFL rushing crowns after only one Canadian – Ottawa’s Orville Lee in 1988 – had accomplished the feat in the previous 55 years.

The only non-Stamps to win the rushing crown over the past nine seasons are a pair of Montreal Alouettes – Brandon Whitaker in 2011 and Tyrell Sutton in 2015 – and Winnipeg’s Fred Reid in 2010.

The Stamps are also the runaway leaders in 1,000-yard rushers in the past 10 years with eight – four by Reynolds, three by Cornish and one by Messam.

The next-best teams in that department are BC and Saskatchewan with four apiece.

1,000-yard rushers (2007-16)

Team No. Players
Calgary 8 Joffrey Reynolds (4), Jon Cornish (3), Jerome Messam
BC 4 Andrew Harris (2), Martell Mallett, Joe Smith
Saskatchewan 4 Kory Sheets (2), Wes Cates (2)
Winnipeg 3 Chad Simpson, Fred Reid, Charles Roberts
Toronto 3 Brandon Whitaker, Cory Boyd, Jamal Robertson
Montreal 3 Tyrell Sutton, Brandon Whitaker, Avon Cobourne
Hamilton 2 Deandra Cobb (2)
Edmonton 2 Jerome Messam, Arkee Whitlock

*Note: Ottawa returned to the CFL in 2014. The RedBlacks have had incredibly bad luck with injuries at the position in their relatively short history and have so far been unable to establish a regular starting tailback.

It should be noted Messam also ran for 1,000 yards in 2015 but he split that campaign between Saskatchewan and Calgary.

Interestingly, Messam is the most recent 1,000-yard man for both the Stamps (2016) and the Eskimos (2011). Brandon Whitaker (with Montreal in 2011 and with Toronto in 2016) is the only other player to reach the milestone with two different clubs over the past decade.