TORONTO -- Being called in at the last minute to fill in for a sick co-worker can be nerve-wracking at the best of times.
Now imagine that co-worker is the reigning CFL rushing title holder and Most Outstanding Canadian.
If Stampeders rookie running back Jonathan Williams was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it as evidenced by his breakout performance against the class of the East in the Toronto Argonauts.
Finding out partway through this week that he would have to step up when current workhorse Jon Cornish came up lame with a thigh contusion didn’t seem to phase the East Carolina product.
“It felt good,” says Williams. “To come here and step up and take the role on of the feature back. You know, we’ve lost some really good players, but hopefully they’ll be back. For now, we’ve just gotta keep balling week in and week out.”
On his first carry of the game, Williams darted for a 10-yard gain, fumbling the ball at the end of the play. Whether nerves played a factor into the suspect ball securement or not, after a savvy John Hufnagel challenge overturned the fumble, Williams looked every bit the sure ballcarrier.
“Probably after about my second play, I really started to get into the feel of it and they were missing me so much, they couldn’t seem to tackle me,” says Williams.
Williams racked up an impressive 82 yards on 18 carries in his rookie debut as he slashed and juked his way through a tough Argos defence.
The speedster’s performance has been one of many instances of the next-man-up mentality the Stamps have lived by since the beginning of the season.
As the count in the trainer’s rooms mounts, more and more players have stepped up and seized the opportunity in front of them as the Stamps have been able to tally a 6-2 record, good enough for sole possession of second in the West behind the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Williams is one of those players who had to step up and fill in for the large cleats of an all-star, helping contribute to the team’s first win in their last seven visits to Rogers Centre.
“I’ve got to show love for my O-line,” said a grateful Williams. “They did a helluva job tonight. I mean, 177 yards (total team rushing) says it all.”
The next test for Williams and the Stampeders will come on Monday, Sept. 2 in the annual Labour Day Classic against provincial rival Edmonton.