Thursday, November 26, 2009

From star to mentor

It wasn’t all that long ago that Jason Clermont was tearing up the CFL statistically. In 2002, he was drafted fourth overall by the B.C. Lions and made an immediate impact, catching 46 passes for 735 yards and six touchdowns and earning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie award. In 2004, he had a career year, recording 83 catches for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. He also put up 1,000+ yard seasons with B.C. in 2005 and 2007. In 2008, he was held to 50 catches for 640 yards and three touchdowns, still very solid numbers, but he was released by the Lions after the season ended. He signed a deal with Saskatchewan nine days later and played this year with the Roughriders.

In terms of pure statistics, the move didn’t pay off. Saskatchewan has probably the best Canadian receiving corps in the league, so Clermont struggled to find time with the likes of Rob Bagg, Andy Fantuz and Chris Getzlaf competing for catches. He only recorded catches in 12 different games this year, and only had six games with more than one catch. He finished the year with career lows in catches (23), yards (317) and touchdowns (zero).

Still, Regina native Clermont said coming home brings its own rewards. “It’s been great,” he said. “I had a baby boy 10 months ago, so it’s great to get to go home, have dinner with my family and sleep in my own bed.”

Some might be jealous of the younger receivers stealing their catches, but not Clermont. He said he loves watching the young Canadians succeed, and their accomplishments are proof of the depth of Canadian talent in the league today. Saskatchewan’s frequently started more than the league minimum of non-imports, and they’ve found great success doing so.

“At some times, we’ve had up to 10 Canadian players on the field at the same time on our offence, and I don’t think we’ve really skipped a beat,” Clermont said.

Bagg credited Clermont with much of the younger receivers’ development.

“He’s obviously been there and been a big influence on all of us,” Bagg said. “He’s won a championship and been a huge player in this game. While he might not be on the field on every down right now, mentally he helps us prepare for every play. He’s a fun guy to be around and a bigger part of this team than people on the outside probably realize.”

The move has also worked out for Clermont from another standpoint, as it allows him a chance to pick up his second Grey Cup ring. For him, one of the few disappointments is not getting a chance to take on his old team thanks to B.C.’s loss in the Eastern Final.

“For a lot of the friends I have on that team, I hoped for their sake that they’d get through and then lose in the Grey Cup.”

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