June 8, 2024

‘Destined For This’

Sports is about moments.

It’s what makes it magical.

And boy did we get one Friday night.

The nearly 20,000 fans at McMahon Stadium were front and centre to see a play that not only brought them out of their seats, but was the culmination of a dream that came to fruition through dogged determination (a little play on words from a great quote later), and a unwavering belief in oneself.

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Cam Echols – playing in his first CFL game – scored an absolute highlight reel touchdown catch with 2:45 to go in the half.

He caught a pass from Jake Maier – in triple coverage – and then, just for good measure an added the ‘wow’ factor, by hauling it in with one hand.

That major, of course, was a pivotal moment in the Stamps season-opening 32-24 victory over former Stamps legend Bo Levi Mitchell and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Speaking of those Ticats, it just so happened Echols was signed by them in 2018 and added to their practice roster. He re-signed with them in 2019 but was released in May.

From there he headed Stateside to the USFL for two seasons with two different teams.

Then on Jan. 31, he inked with the Red & White.

So, in the opening game of this season Friday, he got the chance to suit up in the CFL for the first time in a game.

And he made that play that is, quite frankly, some validation for all the perseverance and dedication he’s displayed.

“It is, man, it is,” he agreed. “I never sat there and saw myself scoring like that, but however I can score I’ll do it. The ball just came my way and I plucked it.”

What makes this tale of triumph even better, he said, was that same catch is one he failed to haul in on the McMahon turf earlier this year.

“It always feels better when you get a W,” he said. “I just tried to go out there and do what coach asked. It was actually funny because I dropped that exact pass, just like that, in practice. And just for me to come out there and catch it, that’s what I do – I make plays, but I got to give it to the other 11. I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for them.”

Echols heaped praise on the O-line for their play, along with every other teammate that was on the field for the catch.

“I believe I said this maybe like a week or so ago but if you ask me, I’m gonna say I feel like we have the best receiving corp in the league,” he stated. “I’m not the only frisbee-catching dog out there (hence the above canine reference), as you can see. We all catch all of our passes and that’s just one thing we do.”

He was then asked what he saw from Maier, who finished the night 21 of 26 for 252 yards and no INTs.

“What I’ve seen all camp,” he quickly answered, “a true warrior, a true gunslinger, a QB 1.”

When the rest of the media that had surrounded his locker turned off the cameras, I asked him what it was like to not only haul in the TD but have such a well-rounded game from start to finish.

He was cool, calm, collected – and confident – from the opening play when the first pass of the Red & White’s season went to him, but was overthrown.

The next one he saw, he came back on a scramble to haul in a 26-yarder. He was targeted twice more, including the TD, and finished with 40 yards of total offence.

After all the trials and tribulations of his pro career to date, this game must have been, well, a dream come true.

“If we’re being honest, I worked for this,” he said. “I prayed for this – you could say I’m destined for this. All my work is starting to show and that’s just a true testament to my off-season work and work in the summer and everything I’ve been working on to get here – you know, my journey’s been long.

“All I can say to everybody who is watching and paying attention, just don’t quit. I just didn’t quit.”

And is this a good omen – a harbinger of things to come when it comes to hauling in majors and helping the team win?

“I would hope so,” he smiled.