Earlier this week a long list of standout Canadian football players calling the NCAA home were recognized for their excellence in the 2020 college football season by being nominated for the Jon Cornish Trophy, awarded annual to the top Canadian in NCAA football.
Since the awards inception in 2017, only offensive players have earned the right to sign the back of the large metal maple that rests in Tim Hortons Field at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
That is amazing, but what makes it even more impressive is that all three players selected have their hands on the ball – almost – every play.
In the CFL Draft we know lineman rule the day historically, but the Jon Cornish Trophy and more like it are consistently providing evidence that great Canadian football players are much more than big bodies in the trenches.
We can run, catch, throw and create separation with the best on either side of the border.
Never has that been more on display than the last two years as Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard set the college football landscape on fire in 2019 on his way to winning the Jon Cornish Trophy last year, followed by a stunning 2020 championship season for Brampton native and Alabama Crimson Tide receiver John Metchie.
Metchie started the season at Alabama third on the depth chart – which was nothing to laugh at considering the competition to even be recruited by Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his staff – and quickly stepped into a staring role when starter, and recent sixth overall pick to the Miami Dolphins, Jaylen Waddle succumbed to an ankle injury.
Given the extra opportunity, Metchie went on to average 16.7 yards per catch good for seventh in the ever-competitive SEC while accruing six touchdowns on 55 catches.
My favourite statistic that drives home the 20-year-old Metchie’s impact at Alabama?
He produced a first down or a touchdown on 35 of his 55 catches.
Each week in the unforgettable fall of 2020, Metchie gave Canadian football fans longing to watch home grown talent prosper something to cheer about. I admit, as a U SPORTS diehard and casual NCAA follower, I was locked into Alabama games and not for the star quarterback or iconic head coach. I wanted to see the kid from Brampton wave the flag as he ran around, past and through defenders.
Anyone who loves football can see the talent, but I recruited Pro Football Focus college football podcast host and overall football savant Seth Galina – a Montreal native – to tell me why my eyes tell me Metchie is so special.
“He’s well-rounded as a receiver,” said Galina. “He can do pretty much anything that you want which is why I’m super high on him going into the 2021 season. He’s going to be the number one dog on the number one team so he’s going to get a lot of balls but the reason why he gets so many balls and the reason he was able to replace a talent like Waddle is that he can beat you over the top on a post, which is great, but he can win on the intermediate routes, elite receiver type routes, 10-yards to 20-yards down the field. He snaps off his routes so cleanly beating defenders.”
In a receiving group that featured Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith – known for his ability to float by defenders with incredible speed aided by his minuscule 166-pound frame – Metchie proved to have more variety to his production which Galina says the PFF numbers clearly showed.
“His numbers against press coverage were astronomical, he was top five in yards per route run against press coverage in all of college football last year,” Galina said. “What else do you want from a receiver? The first thing we look at is can you beat press coverage and the answer is yes at an elite level. The second is can you win against man coverage when you can’t just run by people, and he can.”
All of it added up to a Cornish Trophy for Metchie, who returns to school this fall after attending fellow Cornish Trophy nominee and now NFL 3rd-round draft pick Josh Palmer’s draft party – another Brampton native – as Metchie begins to eye his own NFL dream. With multiple Alabama receivers drafted in the top rounds yearly, Galina sees Metchie as next in line for the Crimson Tide coronation.
“We (PFF) had him at number 9 or 10 on our list of returning receivers in college football and my thing is don’t be surprised if he’s in the top-5 by the end of the season, he’s going to get a lot of exposure and he’s just a tremendous player.”
It’s highly unlikely CFL fans will ever see Metchie suit up in their teams uniform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of the 2021 Jon Cornish Trophy winner and proud Canadian talent John Metchie for everything he’s achieved, and everything he will going forward.
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