Johnny Augustine obviously didn’t want to see the 2020 CFL season get cancelled.
After all, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back will confidently tell you he thinks the team would have successfully defended their Grey Cup title this year — no matter what the format was.
“Not to sound cocky or whatever, but I really believe that we were going to win it back-to-back whether it was going to be a full regular season, 18 games scheduled plus playoffs, or if it was a six-game (season),” said Augustine in a phone interview from his home in Guelph, Ont. “I really do believe that, as we brought the whole core back together.”
But even though Augustine will have to wait until, hopefully, 2021 to have a chance at adding a second Grey Cup ring to his hand, he’s finding a few positives in last week’s announcement from the league.
“I kind of gave myself some time to relax personally. Just because this is my first summer to myself, you know? It’s been a long time since I haven’t worked in the summer. Obviously, the past two years I’ve been playing professional football. Usually, it’s been a grind, so for me, I’ve been spending a lot of time with family and friends, especially family, because I don’t get to see them much,” he said.
Don’t get it twisted, though. That doesn’t mean Augustine is kicking his feet up and sipping cocktails all day. Augustine, who filled in admirably for Andrew Harris during a two-game suspension last season, ran for 173 yards on 28 carries and added 80 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in two starts.
But the pandemic has allowed him to get a head start on what he’ll do for a living once his days of being a professional athlete are over.
“I personally have always had a passion for real estate. I’m actually in the midst of my course, so I’m getting my license really soon and looking to be doing that. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about. I’m looking to pursue that route post-football retirement. So, obviously I’m not going to retire anytime soon, but it’s going to be a great way to get my feet wet, get experience this year, so that way, whenever I transition to life after football, I’ll go into that,” said the 27-year-old Augustine.
“I’m a personal trainer as well. So, working on my online personal training business and looking to expand on that. These are a couple of things that I have on the go, so I’m really excited that I can put my full attention to that.”
In the past he chipped away at his real estate studies during the football season, but there’s not a lot of time for hitting the books when learning a playbook, watching film and icing bumps and bruises after practices and game.
Augustine is coming off a season where he turned heads, leading to signing a two-year contract extension in December. His career trajectory is on the up, but Augustine said with the cancelles season it’s not all doom and gloom for young players who are starting to make names for themselves.
“It’s a little frustrating, but at the same time, it’s how you look at it. I encourage young guys to look at it as ‘Yeah, we’re not playing, but this is an opportunity to maybe still work on our craft and let our bodies heal,’” said Augustine, who went undrafted out of the University of Guelph and was signed by the Bombers prior to the 2018 campaign.
“The way I look at it, I’ve been playing football for, I don’t know, between 13 to 17 years or something like that and this is the first time I get to let my body heal. For me, yes, I wish I was playing right now and have that momentum riding, but at the same time, I can see this being a benefit as well to let my body heal and next year come in even better shape and fully healthy.”
Augustine has a game plan for himself for the next year and after talking with some of his teammates, he doesn’t believe he’s the only one. It won’t be easy, but he’s encouraged by how guys are responding and is confident they’ll get through a year away from the gridiron.
“I think a lot of guys are smart. The thing is, a lot of people don’t realize this, obviously, football is our job, profession and career, but we do have outside sources of income or whatever and a lot of guys are smart like that. Guys are thinking about post-retirement, future avenues and all that stuff… Some guys do have jobs and I think the majority of the guys are OK. I think for them it was more ‘OK, can I put my full attention on this job?’ So, I think some guys are in better positions than most people might think. Obviously, everybody is hurting, but the whole perspective of everyone’s thinking like ‘Oh, this going to hurt a lot of players,’ I don’t think it’s really like that.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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