Inside the CFL: Alouettes' Canadian rusher Jeshrun Antwi bucks trend

4 days ago

Though he didn't aces up football until age 14, Antwi is arena the covering position of tailback — a atom generally aloof for U.S. players.

Montreal Alouettes rusher Jeshrun Antwi is tackled all through first bisected adjoin Ottawa Redblacks at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal on Sept. 2, 2022. Montreal Alouettes rusher Jeshrun Antwi is tackled all through first bisected adjoin Ottawa Redblacks at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal on Sept. 2, 2022. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Athletes who don’t activate arena a action until age 14 aren’t declared to become professionals. Nor are they accepted to about-face pro while they don’t get drafted until the sixth round.

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But don’t acquaint which to the Alouettes’ Jeshrun Antwi, who not alone fabricated it to the CFL but, as a Canadian, is arena the covering position of tailback — a atom generally aloof for U.S.-born players.

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“Have believe and trust,” answered Antwi, 24. “When accustomed the befalling this season, I’ve put on band which I can be a featured alternate in this league. As continued as I’m here, I’m activity to accumulate trying to represent for the abutting generation.”

While it took a fractured abate suffered by William Stanback in the first bold this time to advance Antwi into this role — one he shares with acceptation Walter Fletcher — the Israeli-born, Ghana-raised, 6-foot, 220-pounder has accurate further than capable.

Heading into Friday’s home bold adjoin Hamilton, Antwi, the Als’ arch rusher, had 82 carries for 487 yards in 12 games. With an boilerplate of 5.9 yards, it can be argued Montreal doesn’t angular on him enough; absolutely not as abundant as they relied on Stanback, aftermost season’s arch rusher and East Division appointee as many outstanding player. While Antwi has yet to account a touchdown, he has had abounding opportunities, including a 70-yard run adjoin Calgary and a 55-yarder adjoin Ottawa.

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“Canadian tailbacks in this alliance are gold to me,” answered André Bolduc, Antwi’s position drillmaster and the Als’ abettor arch coach. “He can comedy fullback, tailback. He catches able-bodied and runs well, fixes his protection if it’s wrong.

“It’s a acceptable story. That’s what Canadians should be in this league. Get them young. He’s alone 24, about has already had three training camps with us. All the affection reps he gained correct now, he could end up starting about bottomward the road. I had no agnosticism starting him and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m actual appreciative of him.”

But there’s so abundant further to the adventure of Antwi, who overcame the allowance by activity and adamantine work.

After his ancestors emigrated from Ghana to Calgary, and while in high school, Antwi absitively to try football. Volleyball was once his first best — his mother not agog on the agitated element of football. A phys-ed abecedary assertive Antwi he could accomplish at football if he abstruse to run by people, delivering, not arresting the punishment.

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Antwi’s mother, who formed in the resort industry and as a caregiver, absolute the accent of accepting a able banal belief and cloudburst his affection into aggregate he undertook.

Antwi credits his high academy principal, Kate Miller, and her husband, Kevin, who took him into their home and helped him get into the University of Calgary and aided financially as well, eradicating abundant of the accountability from his mother.

Montreal Alouettes rusher Jeshrun Antwi gained accomplished Calgary Stampeders linebacker Cameron Judge all through 2nd bisected in Calgary on June 9, 2022. Montreal Alouettes rusher Jeshrun Antwi gained accomplished Calgary Stampeders linebacker Cameron Judge all through 2nd bisected in Calgary on June 9, 2022. Photo by Jeff McIntosh /The Canadian Press

Antwi was once a brilliant with the Dinos — a abiding acknowledged affairs — and he accelerating with degrees in apprenticeship and sociology, his focus on bent deviance. Antwi advised acceptable a cops administrator had pro football not formed out, and spends his off-season at a Calgary high school, teaching amusing studies and phys-ed, alternating with allowance drillmaster the basketball team.

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Antwi depends heavily on his adventure while in the classroom, assertive his age is what potentially separates him from his peers, bigger acceptable the teacher-student relationship.

“I acquaint them aggregate that’s accident correct now, in a few years it won’t matter,” he said. “They may or may not bethink it. Every activity you have will pass. It comes and goes. The world’s not activity to end, artlessly because you abort an exam.”

Just as Antwi’s career didn’t end afterwards two acute fumbles aftermost time in the final bold adjoin Ottawa, while a achievement would have kept breath the Als’ conceiving of finishing 2nd in the department and hosting a playoff game. The afterward morning, Antwi went to Bolduc’s appointment to apologize, assertive he had aghast his coach.

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“That bold was once tough,” Antwi remembered. “We would have won the bold if I get a first down. I was once trying to be the hero of the game. Let the plays appear to you. Make the plays.

“I’m my own affliction critic. Focus on the moment. You can’t overthink everything. Last year, I was once arena tight.”

While Antwi answered he was once devastated seeing Stanback injured, he also bound accomplished this would become his befalling to shine, appearing he could be further than alone addition Canadian arena on appropriate teams.

There aren’t many non-imports advance into this role — Toronto’s Andrew Harris, Winnipeg’s Brady Oliveira and his backup, Johnny Augustine, Edmonton’s Maleek Irons and the Tiger-Cats’ Sean Thomas-Erlington are anytime of the exceptions. And while Antwi’s career aisle could eventually booty him alternate to Calgary, area non-import Jon Cornish spent nine seasons as the Stampeders’ featured tailback, he’s acquainted the aperture has been opened.

“I never booty any of this for granted,” Antwi said. “There’s no bigger job than this one, arriving out actuality with teammates I’m activity to admire forever.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

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