November 9, 2019

Welcome Back, Kj!

Forgive Kamar Jorden if he looks and sounds like a guy who’s just realized the winning lottery ticket is tucked away in his jeans, landed a date with the high-school prom queen and has some Marvel superhero powers hidden inside him.

“Man,’’ confesses the once-again-ready-for-prime-time receiver, “it is honestly hard to put into words what I’m feeling … Everything this week has just happened so fast.

“So I haven’t had any time to sit back and actually realize how far I have come, how long the process has been, how much progress I’ve made.

“I’ve been preparing for this game, for this moment, for over a year.

“I mean, I feel strong.

“I’m ready to go.

“But I think it’s going to take until game day, coming out, seeing the crowd, feeling the buzz, for the whole thing to hit me.

“That, I think, is when I’ll finally know:

“I’m back.”

That’ll be Sunday, 2:30 p.m., McMahon Stadium.

K.J. is, at last, A-OK.

A week of gathering speculation was confirmed when Jorden’s name appeared on the Calgary Stampeders’ depth chart early Saturday.

The road back to competitive health has been a long, sheer uphill climb. Days upon days of rolling out of bed and dreading the necessary rehab. The worry. The doubt. The latent frustration.

The catastrophic injury suffered on Labour Day Monday of last year that dislocated a knee while tearing the anterior, medial and posterior ligaments had tossed his star-ascending season into the dumpster and threw his career into jeopardy.

Surgery required eight hours.

Only a week before, he’d broken Herm Harrison’s single-game franchise receiving record of 237 by 12 yards. Against Sunday’s West semi-final foe, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, adding a bit of symmetry to the whirlpool of emotion.

Through only a half season in 2018, Jorden had amassed 944 yards and six TDs. His horizon blazed a brilliant, neon-bright blue.

And then, that Labour Day afternoon, he went to make a block against the Edmonton Eskimos and …

“I’d never been through a major injury of this nature, so at first I wasn’t prepared,’’ Jorden acknowledges. “You go through so many emotions. I tried to look at every day on its own. Do what you can today. Don’t look ahead, don’t try to predict the future.

“That’ll just drive you crazy.

“You’re so up and down. Waking up and mentally preparing for rehab as opposed to waking up and getting ready for practice is SO different. A whole other mindset. I won’t lie.

“And there were times where I would do too much work, my knee would be banged up even more and I had to shut it down for a week. So I had to learn when to chill, too. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process.

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever be here. But here I am. And I’m so incredibly happy.”

If he’s happy, be sure the whole gang is over-the-moon ecstatic, too.

“Seeing him smile again because he’s going to play football again is so, so great,’’ says Stampeders’ receivers coach Pete Costanza. “He loves playing football more than anything else.

“Whether it’s ‘against all odds’ or a ‘miracle’, as some people are saying … whatever. Adrian Peterson was a miracle, too, and he’s playing high-level football. Unquestionably, it’s a spark for our entire football team. Remember when he first came out just to see if he could run around and finish a practice, and everyone was cheering him?

“To see K.J., then to now, is just super exciting. He’s like a little kid again.”

A kid eager to get out and start bossing the playground again with his pals.

“K.J.’s been in all our meetings, at all our practices, just preparing for this moment,’’ says slotback Reggie Begelton. “Honestly, that’s my brother, man. I want to see him out there. We all want to see him out there.

“He was having an amazing, breakout, career, record year and that happened. So unfortunate.

“I just want him to get out there and do what he does best.

“K.J.’s K.J.

“Can’t have enough weapons. His being back impacts me. Impacts us all. Takes a load off. I’ve got another threat on the other side. So just let me do my job.

“If I can get open, I get open. But I know for a fact he can get open.”

In Jorden’s mind, the support of the organization and backing of his buddies looms large in this comeback tale.

“For them to know I’m going through a major injury and allow me to be around the team, to use their facilities, that’s been so key to my being here today, ready to play.

“I’m just blessed. the support I’ve received from everybody.

“I like to think I’m a hard worker, but those things have motivated me to do even more.”

During the drudge days, in the gym rehabbing, or at home wondering, did he ever catch himself daydreaming about the sensations of that first post-injury catch?

“Nope,’’ is the instant reply. “If that catch happens to be for a first down, I won’t be doing none of this” – he strikes the Usain Bolt-style post-catch first-down stance so favoured these days. “Football’s football. I’ve been doing this since I was six years old. I’ve caught the ball a million times. I don’t want to overthink it. I don’t want to overthink that I’m playing again, that it’s playoffs, that it’s Winnipeg.

“None of that.

“After we win, I can savour all that other stuff.

“Once it’s game day and the whistle blows, it’s time to play, time to contribute.

“That’s what I do.

“That’s what I am.”

Welcome back.