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After he pulled in the pass that put him into an elite club in the CFL, S.J. Green thought back to his early days.
Last Friday in Toronto, Green took a 19-yard pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson and broke the 10,000-yard receiving mark. He became just the 18th receiver in CFL history to go over 10,000 yards.
In a year spent in the valley of the CFL with a 3-12 record and missing the playoffs for the second straight year, Green’s accomplishment might be the bright spot of the team’s season.
On Thursday, Green was in Montreal, where his career started. In his third season as an Argo, he said it no longer feels strange to come back to the city that he spent 10 years and won two Grey Cups in. The team’s hotel is in the downtown neighbourhood Green and many of his teammates lived in. Between Thursday’s travel day and Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff with the Alouettes, he’ll try to get back to his favourite restaurant, Deville Dinerbar.
At some point while in Montreal, he’ll think back to how his career started. In 2007, Green walked in on a team that was in the midst of an incredible run behind Anthony Calvillo. Green had to wait two years on the team’s practice roster before his career began to go where he always knew it could.
“It’s something that I wanted to do when I first came into the league,” he said of the 10,000-yard mark. “To be honest with you, the first time I saw someone do it, there were only maybe 12 people on the list at the time (note: Bruce was the 14th). Arland Bruce was the first person I saw or paid attention to going over that.
“As I saw the guys (hit the mark), I wanted to be that calibre of guy.”
Thirteen seasons later, Green has arrived. As the crowd showed Green its appreciation last week, TSN’s Rod Black said from the booth at BMO Field, “that my friends, is a ticket to the hall of fame.”
Throughout those 13 years, Green has been a walking contrast. A low key, lunchpail type of receiver who let his plays — ridiculous catches, shiftyness after the catch and a pure determination to get to the end zone — do all of the talking. If you don’t have time to YouTube his best work, his resume will tell you what matters most to him. He’s a seven-time East Division all-star and a three-time Grey Cup champion. To echo what Black said last week, whenever Green decides to hang it up, they’ll put his name in the cue of HOF busts to be made in Hamilton.
At 34 years old, Green doesn’t feel close to that yet, though.
“I know I want to play at least another year,” he said. “I don’t want to put a limitation on it. It’ll be a year-to-year thing and we’ll go from there, but I know for a fact that I want to play again next year.”
That’s where things will get interesting for Green. He has an expiring contract and while he’s loved his time in Toronto, the last two years — a combined seven wins to this point — have taken a toll on him.
“Ups and downs,” he said of this year. “Not seeing the ball as much as I’d like to, to help my team win. Losing has been frustrating. A lot of ups and downs, but we’ve had good moments too. I’ve had a lot of fun being around the guys, being in the locker room with my teammates. That’s what you miss the most when you go home in the offseason.”
As the Argos transition into new management, with Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons replacing Jim Popp as GM and John Murphy working as the team’s VP of player personnel, change figures to be far-reaching with the team. Plenty of teams with Grey Cup aspirations will reach out to Green, hoping he can be a veteran addition that helps get them over the top in 2020.
Many wondered if Clemons and Murphy would have helped a team for the playoffs by dealing Green at the trade deadline. Of course, the only move they made was sending Zach Collaros to Winnipeg right at the 5 p.m. ET deadline.
If the deadline were anywhere from two to five hours later, the Argos may have made some further moves. They spoke with a number of teams after the announcement of Pinball assuming GM duties was made, but Green wasn’t a part of those discussions.
With three games left on the schedule, Green will continue to chase milestones. Despite the team’s troubles at quarterback, he’s at 897 yards this year. After posting a career-high 1,462 yards in 2017’s Grey Cup-winning run and 1,095 yards in 2018, he should get over the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive year and for the seventh time in his career. He’d love to do it on Friday, back where it all started for him, on the Als’ practice roster.