Carl Junior Gable, or C.J. as he’s better known, has always possessed elite football talents. He just needed to find an ideal situation to prove he could turn his natural abilities into production at the pro level.
Coming out of Sylmar High School in his hometown of Sylmar, California Gable was ranked ahead of running backs such as DeMarco Murray, Ben Tate and LeSean McCoy in the 2006 recruiting class. He was offered and accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California, about a 45-minute drive from where he grew up.
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Gable was quick to get on the field at USC. In fact he became the first true freshman running back – not Marcus Allen, O.J. Simpson or Reggie Bush – to start a season opener for the Trojans in school history. He had to share carries in the USC backfield throughout his university career, but still finished with solid numbers through his four years as a Trojan. He rushed for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns at USC entering his National Football League draft year.
After going undrafted in 2011 Gable was picked up by the New Orleans Saints then released during training camp and the Denver Broncos claimed him on waivers only to release him before the regular season. Then Gable had a brief stint with the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League in 2012 before he attended a free agent workout held by the Ticats in Buffalo before the 2013 season. Gable was signed and brought to training camp last year.
It quickly became clear Gable was the best back Hamilton had on the roster and as the 2013 season went on he further proved himself. Gable finished his first year in the Canadian Football League with 782 yards and seven touchdowns rushing while adding 598 yards and five majors receiving. In 15 starts Gable amassed a total of 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage, strong numbers that earned him East Division Most Outstanding Rookie honours.
Impressive statistics look nice, but all Gable could think about was how the season ended. Hamilton suffered a 45-23 loss in the 101st Grey Cup championship.
“It was bugging me too bad for me just to sit around,” he said. “I needed to start working out. I had a week off and got right back to it.”
Once you catch a glimpse of the 2014 version of Gable it’s clear his off-season workout regime was aimed at gaining muscle – he added about 10 pounds of it.
“I wanted to have more strength this year because last year I felt like I was losing some during the season,” Gable explained. “I needed to pack on more muscle so I can maintain it during the season. I‘ve been running with it and it hasn’t slowed me down, I feel quicker and stronger too.”
“He’s gained more muscle and has less body fat,” offensive coordinator Tommy Condell said.
“The thing that he wanted to do was sustain the season. People don’t realize that shot clock we have known as the play clock is really, really quick. Ultimately playing basically 23 games last year he wanted to be able to sustain the season and make sure he’s feeling well.”
Along with his intense training schedule, Gable pored over a lot of tape on his favourite running backs.
“I like to watch Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy,” Gable said. “I like their style of running and I try to use that when I run.”
Modeling his game after high profile backs shows the level of performance at which Gable expects to play. His number one passion is football, but you might be surprised at a couple of Gable’s biggest interests away from the field.
“I do watch a lot of cartoons. Who told you that?” Gable said with a laugh when asked about his favourite television viewing choice.
As kids many of us took in hours of cartoons, just like Gable. His mom’s favourite was Scooby Doo, he watched all the time and he’s loved cartoons ever since. Among Gable’s favourite cartoon characters is ‘The Hulk’ because he’s unstoppable as described by the 26-year-old. And to this day Gable continues to enjoy cartoons.
“When I wakeup whatever cartoon is on I’m watching it. That’s the first thing I switch to is cartoons. I don’t watch sports highlight shows I switch straight to cartoons. I never got into watching soap operas or those reality shows or anything like that. I like any kind of cartoons, I’ll watch them all,” Gable said. “They just keep you laughing – I like to laugh a lot – so that’s one of the reasons why I watch cartoons.”
“I love Jordan’s, I love Nike SB’s [skate boarding shoes], I love Chucks, any exclusive shoes I love to get them,” Gable said.Along with being a cartoon enthusiast, Gable is a sneaker aficionado. Gable estimates he has over 200 pairs, evidence of a true sneakerhead.
If he could get his hands on some – he wants a pair badly – Gable would like to be able to wear Jordan cleats for the upcoming season. Although he would likely need more than single pair to make it through the entire schedule because of the immense workload Gable is sure to have for the Ticats in 2014.
Gable enters his second CFL season as the feature back for Hamilton and he has some lofty goals. No. 32 for the Ticats believes he can accomplish a feat that’s never been achieved in the long history of the CFL: rush for 1,000 yards and record 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
“I think in this offence I am capable of doing that because we pass to the running back a lot and run the ball,” Gable said, confidently.
“It’s all in what we ask him to do,” Condell added. “If we ask him to run for 1,000 yards, he will. If we ask him to catch for 1,000 yards, he will. If we ask him to throw for 2,000 yards, he would try to do it too.”
Only six players have ever rushed for 1,000 yards and had over 700 receiving yards in a single campaign. So the fact that double 1,000-yard efforts are even being discussed for Gable speaks to his comprehensive skill set. Ticats head coach and general manager Kent Austin has gone on record saying Gable is the best all-around running back in the entire league, high praise from a knowledge football man who doesn’t give it out often unless hard-earned and warranted.
Like one of his favourite cartoon characters, expect a Hulk of a season from Gable.