When Jon Cornish last appeared in the Grey Cup in 2008, he spent the majority of the game watching from the sidelines as the Calgary Stampeders' backup running back. He pitched in where he could on offence and special teams, but he admits his contributions were in a supporting role at best.
That won't be the case this weekend, though, when the Stampers take the field against the Toronto Argonauts with the 100th Grey Cup on the line at the Rogers Centre.
The 28-year-old Cornish has become the centerpiece of Calgary's offence, the player that team defences hone in on when trying to shut down the Stamps attack. His performance Sunday could the determining factor in whether or not the Stampeders are crowned 2012 Grey Cup champions.
"When you don't really know who you are as a player, I think it's easy to sort of be unsure of yourself," Cornish said in an interview Wednesday. "I think this season has really educated me into who I am and who I can be. I have grown; it took some time, but I eventually realized."
While Cornish wasn't an impact player during the 96th Grey Cup in 2008, he admits that just being able to take part in the Grey Cup experience has prepared him for everything leading up to and including Sunday's game.
"It's great to have had that opportunity," Cornish said. "You see all these rookies and they don't really know the pressures involved where as I'm ready for this, it's just another game. This is not my first rodeo."
But Cornish has had more than just the Grey Cup on his mind this week. His mother Margaret was stuck in Jerusalem amidst the Israel-Gaza conflict leaving him constantly watching or reading the news for updates. He's expecting her to be at the CFL awards ceremony Thursday, which will be an opportunity for Cornish to celebrate his individual success with his family.
It's been a year to remember for the New Westminster, B.C. native. Rushing for 1,457 yards, he broke the single-season rushing record for Canadian born players that had been previously held for 56 years by Normie Kwong and he's the West Division nominee for the CFL's most outstanding player award. He carried his impressive regular season performance into the playoffs with 100-plus yard performances in the Western semifinal and final against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions respectively.
That's not to say that there haven't been bumps in the road for Cornish this season. In July, he was stymied by the Lions rush defence in a 34-8 loss to the Lions and later in the season he was fined by the league for mooning Saskatechwan Roughriders' fans after a 30-25 loss at Mosaic Stadium.
"The media made a big hoopla about the minus-1 game and, to me, that game was a positive," he said. "I learned exactly what I need to do to prevent that from ever happening again.
"The last time we played Toronto, I got targeted. That's cool, that's how it's going to be for the rest of my career, so I better show people now how that's going to be dealt with."