When he was languishing in Hamilton, watching his team tumble through the standings in the first half of the season, C.J. Gable said he prayed for change.
His prayers were answered on Oct. 2, when the Edmonton Eskimos traded for him.
“If it wasn’t for that I’d be home right now,” Gable said on Sunday night, after he ran for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help push his still-new team into the CFL’s West Final against Calgary.
“I was praying when I was in Hamilton that something would happen because I wasn’t really being used a lot. I was praying and it got me a great opportunity over here.”
Gable had 466 rushing yards through nine games in Hamilton this year before being traded to the Esks for a pair of negotiation list players. Gable flew across the country, slapped on his new colours and started producing for a team that was missing its stater, in John White and his replacement, Trayvon Van. Both were lost to injury this season.
He was traded on Oct. 2 and was in uniform on Oct. 9. He’s had three games over 100 yards since and has been a key part of the team’s now six-game win streak. He’s now up to 833 yards on the season.
“I’m happy they got me at the right time and traded me over here,” he said, laughing about the deal that took place nine days ahead of the league’s trade deadline.
“It feels good helping them out and getting them to this point. We have one more game left and then we get to the Grey Cup. We’ve got to get this one out of the way.”
Gable’s fit in Edmonton was instant, which isn’t an easy thing to do.
“You have to learn the plays and learn the blocking schemes and all that and how they do stuff. I just put the extra hours in to figure it out,” he said of his fast success in Esks colours. “That’s why they brought me here, to play right away. So I had to force myself to get everything down.”
After a relatively quiet first half, Gable roared to life in the second. He looked like he went around and through 10 of the Bombers’ 12 defenders on the field on his first touchdown, taking a mass of bodies from both teams into the end zone by the time he’d completed his 15-yard run.
Up 32-16 in the fourth, Gable added on to the lead in spectacular fashion, finishing another 15-yard run off by vaulting over Winnipeg linebacker Taylor Loffler for the score.
“I got a front row view of it,” Esks QB Mike Reilly said. “I was trying to go out around the edge and throw a block and try to help him and he jumped over a guy and…into the end zone.
(Loffler) wasn’t diving at his legs. He was standing straight up. I was like, ‘Well, that’s an interesting way to deal with that. I don’t think I have that in my game.’”
Reilly said that Gable has been huge for their team since the day he arrived.
“He’s just kind of a safety net for me when things are breaking down,” Reilly said.
“I know that he’s going to turn around and look for the ball and I can flick it out to him. In the run game, that drive where he finished with a touchdown that was a huge drive. We ran the ball I think the entire drive. I just had that feeling with our offensive line and with C.J. that they were not going to be stopped.
“We had a little break in the action, I think there was an injury time out or something like that. I remember going to the sidelines and saying, ‘Just let them keep rolling because they’re in that zone right now.’ When they get in that zone, they’re unstoppable.”
Playing outside of Hamilton for the first time in his six-year career, Gable has gone from a team that he left at 3-7, to a shot at winning his first-ever Grey cup. He’s also a loss away from his contract expiring. A pending free-agent this winter, he said he’s liked what he’s seen of the Esks organization and would like to stay there.
Right now, he’s solely focused on finishing this season out in the right way.
“ I’m going to do whatever I can for them to help them out and win those games,” he said. “It’s a good place here, I wouldn’t mind getting back here.”