New Westminster’s Jon Cornish made a huge impact in a short time span.
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame gave the big striding one-time Calgary Stampeders star it’s biggest honour, naming Cornish among its class of 2019 inductees this week.
On the strength of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, averaging 6.7-yards a carry over nine years, and three straight Most Outstanding Canadian awards during his Canadian Football League career, Cornish joins the likes of fellow players Mervyn Fernandez, Terry Greer, Ernie Pitts and David Williams and builders Jim Hopson and Frank Smith at being inducted this coming August.
“What I did was sort of building off of some of the other great Canadians and what they had done over time,” Cornish said at a press conference. “Growing up and seeing a guy like Lui Passaglia having great success, for me really set the tone that a Canadian can have success in the CFL.”
A standout during his high school career at St. Thomas More, Cornish retired from the pro game after the 2015 season, after battling various injuries.
At STM, the two-way star racked up 3,200 career yards and 49 touchdowns over three years, while picking up 2,136 of those yards in his final year. He also tallied 37 quarterback sacks and 152 career tackles, including 89 as a senior. The team won the B.C. title two of those seasons.
Cornish, 34, played nine season with the Calgary Stampeders after being selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2006 CFL Draft.
In his first full season as a starter, the Stampeders’ No. 9 rambled for 1,457 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, breaking Canadian Hall of Famer Normie Kwong’s 56-year-old single-season rushing record for Canadians. A year later, he improved on those totals and dominated the game with 1,813 yards and became the third Canadian to receive the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, as well as the Lou Marsh Trophy as the nation’s top athlete.
Even though his 2014 season was limited to nine games due to various injuries, Cornish led the league in rushing at 1,082 yards. He ended up being named to four West Division all-star teams, as well as the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian for three straight years.
“Once I got to the CFL I came to understand what I needed to do to establish myself as a running back. I really couldn’t rely on my Canadian-ness, I just had to really bring the best product I could to the football field,” he said. “Having had that opportunity to break a few records, like Normie Kwong’s record that stood for 56 years, to have the opportunity to break his record was something I had aspired to do my entire life. To change the tone of how running backs are talked about and being a Canadian while doing it, was a great honour.”
In a career that included Grey Cups in 2008 and 2014, Cornish counted 6,844 career yards and 44 rushing touchdowns, with another 1,666 receiving yards and nine majors.
Asked about how he became, like Kwong before him, an influence and inspiration to Canadians with dreams of playing football at the highest level, Cornish gave a nod to Edmonton native Chuba Hubbard, who stars with the Oklahoma State Sooners at running back.
“Having played the whole career, it is what it is. It’s all done now, but if what I did there was able to inspire more kids to believe they can play football at the highest level, that’s all I can wish from my career,” he said.
Cornish played his college ball at the University of Kansas, where he set the school’s single season rushing record of 1,457 yards as a senior.