But as Jon Cornish himself has said, “I’m not like most people. Most people would react one way; I’m going to do the opposite.”
Which explains his reaction to the snub.
Most college football players with draft aspirations would have gone five rounds with a locker. Not Cornish.
“I’m not particularly frustrated with not being chosen. I don’t get frustrated about things like that,” he said, matter-of-factly.
But his clarification might catch one off-guard.
“It doesn’t frustrate me, but it does make me question the overall intelligence of some teams. I just don’t understand why teams would pick players with questionable track records. Some of these guys who got drafted rushed for 500 yards last season!” Cornish explained.
Frank to a fault. That shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of the KU single-season rushing record holder.
Then again, he can afford to be frank. Cornish has the kind of fallback job most parents would love their kids to have: he signed a contract Monday with the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders.
“I’m excited to be a part of such a terrific franchise,” Cornish said of the five-time CFL champions.
The Stampeders are just as excited to have the New Westminster, BC, native. Each CFL club is required to have at least 20 Canadian players on their 40-man roster. This also means each team can sign only a limited number of Americans. Most Americans are skill position players. So, having a native who can make a significant impact at a skill position frees up an additional spot for an American player. That can prove to be a real luxury to a Canadian club.
Cornish has been in contact with the Calgary coaching staff and says he will see plenty of action right away. Cornish will pair up with current Stampeder Joffrey Reynolds, a 3rd-year player out of the University of Houston.
Reynolds was the CFL’s second leading rusher in 2006 with 1,541 yards, 5.9 yards a carry and nine touchdowns. Cornish said he and the 5-11, 220 pound Reynolds would look familiar to KU fans.
“We’ll be just like Clark Green and I were two seasons ago. He’s a straight ahead runner who gains yards and wears opponents down and then I’ll come in and run by them,” Cornish said. “I’m not sure if I’ll start, but I don’t think it will matter.”
He also had a few emphatic words for critics who said he was “settling” on playing north of the border.
“There’s no ‘settle’ about this,” he said, curtly. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I wasn’t going to (go the NFL free agent route); I’ve heard too many horror stories about free agents getting nowhere. I have no reason to think I’d get cut, because I’m as good as any runningback who got drafted. But if something would happen, NFL training camp starts well after the CFL season starts. I’d miss a season.”
Cornish has overcome doubters and adversity before, and in typical fashion, he’s using the NFL’s slight as motivation.
“I still have parts of my game that I need to improve. If I play two years in Canada – and that’s not really that long – and if I achieve what I expect to in the CFL, an NFL team will offer me an opportunity,” he said. “Then, I’ll seek out some vengeance against all those teams that didn’t make the smart decision. When I’m ready, the NFL will still be there.”
The Canadian game isn’t quite the 12-months-a-year, 24/7 monster it is here in the U.S. In fact, the league is basically six months on, six months off. When asked what he’ll do during the off-season, Cornish was stuck for an answer.
He paused and said, “I haven’t really thought about it. I know I need to save some money, so I won’t be out spending it all. I’ve thought about post-graduate studies, and I know I’ll want to buy a nice house someday. I’ll make good money, but there aren’t as many thousands and millions of dollars in Canada as there are in the NFL. I need to save.”
In the short-term, the former #29 has a month before he reports to Calgary for camp. Cornish said his plans are simple, and he sounds a lot like other new college grads.
“I’m just going to rest and relax and enjoy the last couple of weeks of college. This semester’s been great. After graduation, I head north and start work.”
In the meantime, Cornish will once again find himself in familiar territory. He’ll head down Mount Oread on Sunday, May 20th, and enter Memorial Stadium with thousands of his fellow KU students sitting in the stands. He’ll find himself again crossing the familiar Memorial Stadium turf, celebrating another success born of hard work and dedication.
For once, though, he won’t be wearing a helmet and pads; he’ll be wearing a mortar board and gown
Thing is, as years pass, he’ll probably remember his impending Sunday trip to the stadium better than any of the Saturday excursions.
For those who know Jon Cornish, that stadium memory – much like his choice to take his considerable football skills north – is one more thing about him that shouldn’t surprise you.