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CFL rushing title would be special accomplishment for Riders' Morrow

Saskatchewan Roughriders Jamal Morrow - The Canadian Press

Make no mistake, doing his part to secure the Saskatchewan Roughriders a Grey Cup title remains Jamal Morrow's top priority.

But as a running back, winning the CFL rushing title also has its appeal for the 28-year-old Californian.

"It's something I do want," Morrow said recently. "It would be something super cool just to have.

"But that comes one step at a time, one game at a time."

The five-foot-eight, 205-pound Morrow stands third in CFL rushing with 233 yards on 42 carries (5.5-yard average). He trails Winnipeg's Brady Oliveira (327 yards) and B.C.'s Taquan Mizzell (246 yards), both of whom played last week while the Riders were on a bye week.

Saskatchewan (2-1) resumes league action Thursday night hosting the Edmonton Elks (0-4).

Morrow was leading the CFL in rushing last season with 564 yards and two TDs before requiring surgery for a broken hand. The former Washington State star finished 2022 with 666 yards and three touchdowns on 126 carries (5.3-yard average) while adding 43 catches for 366 yards and a touchdown over 12 games.

"Obviously, it left a bitter taste in my mouth having to leave last year,," said Morrow, who signed a one-year deal this off-season to return to Saskatchewan. "But that's the great thing about a new season, you get to come back and have a fresh, new beginning.

"I do have a chip on my shoulder. It (rushing crown) is something that independently I'd like to achieve."

Last season was Morrow's first as Saskatchewan's No. 1 running back after being used primarily as a returner in 2021. He joined the Riders practice roster in 2019.

Coming to Canada is a big adjustment for many American running backs as the passing nature of the game usually means limited carries. But playing at Washington State in then head coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offence made for a much more seamless transition to the CFL for Morrow.

"In college, there'd be games where I'd be happy if I was able to get six or seven carries," Morrow said. "It was a lot of passing so it translates to this (Canadian football) very well.

"There was more of an adjustment to the rules but it (college) made the transition easier."

When Morrow arrived in Regina, veteran Americans William Powell and Marcus Thigpen were in the backfield. And Morrow said both contributed mightily to his transition to the professional ranks.

"They were veterans in the league and just understood what it takes to be a pro," Morrow said. "That helped me in terms of how I work today, my everyday routine and making sure I'm doing something every day to give myself an advantage when I go out on the field."

Morrow's upbeat, positive and respectful demeanour make him a very likeable figure. But he said it's all a matter of perspective.

"For me, every day is a new day and a blessing," he said. "I like to live my life like that and just enjoy life in general.

"Also, it's great because I have one of the best jobs in the world. Even if it's a bad day, you've still got to put it into perspective regarding what you're able to do and get to do."

In 2013 as a high school senior, Morrow received the thrill of a lifetime when he heard his name called to be a contestant on The Price Is Right. Morrow had an opportunity to bid on a package that included a car, computer and cash but said he overbid by $500.

While he didn't win, Morrow still received a US$1,000 gift card and other prizes.

"That was really cool experience," he said. "I wasn't expecting to hear my name called.

"But at first I heard, 'Jamal,' then came my last name and it was just pure excitement."

However, having to think fast and come up with a winning bid was challenging.

"It's difficult," Morrow said. "I had a chance to win a car but at the time I'm 18 and I don't know the different types of cars or anything.

"I think after 10 years you can reapply to go on the show so maybe next off-season I'll try my luck to get back on the show."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2023.