Janarion Grant has already established himself as a dangerous, game-breaking kick returner in his short Canadian Football League career.
The next step – now that he has signed a one-year contract extension with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – is to work to make some inroads as a receiver and contributor on offence.
“That’s the goal, most definitely,” began Grant in a chat with bluebombers.com from his offseason base in Tampa, Fla. “My goal is to try and get more work on offence. I’ve still got to work on the punt return and kick return thing.
“I don’t want to be labelled as just a punt returner or kick returner. I know I can catch and see the field and make some things happen.”
Interestingly, on Grant’s Wikipedia page his position is listed as ‘return specialist.’ When it was suggested that it might soon need to be hyphenated to read ‘receiver-return specialist’, he chuckled before adding:
“I’m going to make that happen.”
Grant’s debut with the Bombers in 2019 was nothing short of legendary. A returner at Rutgers, he landed that gig with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He was later released and landed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at their training camp a year later.
Cut adrift by the Ticats, he was added to the Bombers’ practice roster in July of ’19 and suited up for his first game against the Calgary Stampeders in August.
In that game, he returned two punts for touchdowns and finished the game with 306 yards in combined kick-return yards. As well, his 222 yards in punt returns set a new club record and ranked as the third-highest single-game total in CFL history.
Grant finished the year playing in 11 games and led the Bombers in punt return yardage with 591 (scoring three touchdowns) and in kickoff return yards with 600.
Like many in the Bombers’ receiver stable – including Kenny Lawler, who re-signed this week and Rasheed Bailey who did the same in January – Grant seems on the verge of a bust-out season, especially if he can earn more touches in the offence.
“I want to play all phases – offence, punt return, kick return. Shoot, if I could play defence as well, I would,” said Grant with a chuckle.
“That first (CFL season) was such an experience. There was first the challenge of going from the NFL to the CFL… there are certain rules that are just different with receivers running before the ball is snapped, with the field being wider and longer. But I started to adjust with Hamilton and after they released me and Winnipeg took me in I just started rolling. I started to catch the hang of everything – I’m still doing that, because I came in almost at the middle of the season.
“I was just happy to be able to make some things happen and help the team win in any way possible.”
The last year has been difficult for Grant and so many CFL players. He’s going to become a father in March and – after not being able to land an NFL look after opting out of his contract late last summer following the cancellation of the CFL season – he began work stocking shelves just to help make ends meet financially.
Re-signing with the Bombers helps provide clarity for where he’ll be playing next, even with the uncertainty swirling about with the pandemic.
“It’s been really hard. We just came off a championship and football can be year-round, 365, for people that love it like me,” said Grant. “Ever since I was in college, or even before, you have other players, coaches and teachers tell you that football doesn’t last forever. You have to have that Plan B, whether it’s stocking, working for UPS or Amazon or whatever.
“But now we’ve had the chance to rest our bodies and come back and try and do the same thing again and win another championship. I can’t wait.
“Football is what I love and what I love to do, so this hasn’t been easy. I’d do it every day if I could for however long I live. And hopefully that’s to an old age.”
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