Cornish named Canada’s outstanding pro football player

Posted on Nov 25, 2013 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Jon Cornish, who set KU’s single-season rushing record with 1,457 yards in 2006, on Thursday was named Most Outstanding Player of the Canadian Football League. Cornish, c’07, a native of New Westminster, British Columbia, is the first Canadian to win the CFL’s top honor since 1978 and only the third all-time.

Cornish led the CFL with 1,813 yards for the Calgary Stampeders. It’s the most yards ever recorded by a Canadian, and Cornish was also named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian Player, the second year in a row he’s won that honor.

At KU, Cornish was known as a superior special-teams player who, until his breakout year as a senior, showed flashes of brilliance at running back but was also known to have clashed with coach Mark Mangino. In an interview taped shortly after the CFL award was announced, which can be viewed at CFL.ca, Cornish said Mangino tried to motivate him by telling him Canadians can’t play football.

“He saw that I wasn’t at the level he needed me to be at,” Cornish says in the CFL video. “He said other things to me, and the end result is me working to be the best football player I could; the end result in college is setting the single-season rushing record at KU. So I was happy with that, and I’m sure he was, too.”

Only two KU running backs are within even 250 yards of Cornish’s season record: Tony Sands, with 1,442 in 1991, and June Henley’s 1,349 in 1996. Cornish’s 121.4 yards per game led the Big 12, for which he was named first-team all-conference. Cornish topped 200 yards in a game with 201 against Kansas State in the second-to-last game of the ’06 season, and approached it with 196 versus Baylor.

“I’m normally pretty good at accommodating new things,” Cornish said Thursday, “but learning I was selected 2013 MOP … it’s a dream I wanted to accomplish for a long time. I thought I would be capable of doing it, and to see it actually work out is pretty fulfilling.

“I don’t think people understand the value of hard work, and that hard work over a long period of time creates results. For me, it was instilled at the start of college, even high school, that you’re not going to get any results without hard work.”

Cornish’s next personal goal: Overtaking the CFL’s all-time single-season rushing record, set at 2,065 in 1998 by American running back Mike Pringle of the Montreal Alouettes.

He has good company among Jayhawk stars in the CFL: KU’s career tackling leader, linebacker Willie Pless, d’07, holds the same honor in the CFL, where he was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player five times. Pless played for four CFL teams–Toronto, British Columbia, Edmonton and Saskatchewan–from 1986 through 1999, and is considered by many to be the best defensive player in CFL history.

–Chris Lazzarino

The CFL photo gallery is available here.

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