November 8, 2021 - Ottawa, Canada
A.J. Ouellette, a 2014 graduate of Covington High School, has patiently been waiting for an opportunity to be the work horse for the Toronto Argonauts and it looks like his time has come after an amazing performance on Saturday against Ottawa.
He gave the organization a glimpse of his amazing talent two years ago in helping lead the Argonauts to a 49-9 win over Ottawa, but unfortunately follow-up opportunities have been hard to come by since. That’s because the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ouellette suffered a rib injury in the second game of this season in a 20-7 loss to Winnipeg.
Over the course of the season A.J. found himself on and off of the practice squad as his injury healed and opportunity finally presented itself on Saturday when Toronto traveled to Ottawa as Ouellette was inserted into the lineup in the second half after an injury to John White.
“I’m praying for him,” A.J. said fo White. “Hopefully it (the injury) is not as bad as we are thinking and he can work his way back with us.”
Trailing 13-9 at the break and 20-12 heading into the final quarter, Ouellette took over the game. He busted a 30-yard run and followed with a 17-yard run where he capped the effort by hurdling a defender.
In all, A.J. rushed for 107 yards on just 14 carries to spark a 23-20 comeback win for the Argonauts.
“I just did what I’ve always done, run the ball hard,” explained Ouellette of his approach to the game. “Use speed when I need to, but just punish the defense and try to wear them out.”
It was a special day for Ouellette as it was his first 100-yard rushing effort as a professional, which is an impressive accomplishment considering Canadian football is primarily a passing league.
And in typical A.J. fashion, he gave credit to his teammates
“I’m glad I could do my part,” he said. “I just had to be patient, let the blockers block. Not too much I had to do but just run.”
On one of Ouellette’s gritty runs it appeared he twisted his ankle. But toughness has always been major strength in his overall game and Ouellette never let it slow him down.
“In games like that, you can’t worry about how bad you are hurting,” he said. “Your team is hurting, they are hurting - you just have to push through and battle.”
The win boosts Toronto’s record to 8-4 on the season with two games left. The Argonauts currently sit in the top spot of the Eastern Division - one game ahead of their next opponent Hamilton, who sits at 7-5.
The two teams lock horns for the fourth time next Friday with the Eastern Division title on the line. Toronto has beaten Hamilton twice this season, while Hamilton has won once.
For Ouellette, he continues taking things one day at a time and controlling the things he can control.
“I’ll do the same things I have done every week so far,” said Ouellette of how he plans to prepare for next week’s big game. “Get in the weight room and work.”
And then take advantage of another opportunity.