A.J. Ouellette is now a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. ©Ben Robinson/Color Green Photo

Covington Buccaneer legend A.J. Ouellette recently signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League after putting together a stellar performance over the past couple of years as a member of the Toronto Argonauts.

A.J.’s path to success at Toronto took time after he joined the Argonauts in 2019 with five games left in the season. Ouellette played in three games in 2019 with one of them leading to over 100 yards rushing.

The 2020 CFL season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Ouellette only saw action in six games in 2021. In 2022, the Argonauts signed CFL legend Andrew Harris, which delayed Ouellette’s opportunity as the starting running back. Ouellette eventually became the starter midway through the season when Harris suffered an injury.

That’s when Ouellette’s professional career took off as A.J. led the Argonauts to the Grey Cup Championship and was selected as an All Star in the Eastern Division.

He followed up with an amazing year in 2023 by rushing for 1009 yards and scoring eight rushing touchdowns. He also had 163 receiving yards and two touchdown catches and was selected as an All Star for the second consecutive year.

In the process Ouellette became a fan favorite in Toronto and throughout the Canadian Football League. This was evident by the number of fans who wore Ouellette’s jersey number and how the fans waited after the game to meet A.J. and get autographs.

“It’s definitely a boost of energy every time you see your jersey on someone you’ve never met before,” said Ouellette with a smile on his face. “Those kids showing up with a hammer and after a touchdown you kind of look up into the crowd and see everyone kind of waving a hammer – that is just a boost of energy you get.”

The hammer came to fruition in a spontaneous moment where Ouellette threw his first touchdown pass against Hamilton.

“Gunner (A.J.’s nephew), bought me a Thor hammer,” described Ouellette. “So I took the Thor hammer into the locker room and all of the guys thought it was sweet. A couple weeks later we were playing in Hamilton, which everyone doesn’t know their stadium name is called The Hammer. So I thought it was cool to bring the hammer to The Hammer and I used it as a sideline prop. There was some chirping going on between the players and one of their (Hamilton) guys said something I didn’t like to one of our o-lineman, so I’m like, okay, I’m going to bring the hammer onto the field after we score next. And then after my only professional pass, it ended up being a touchdown – so it was already a big moment and I went to the sideline, grabbed the hammer and slammed it down on their field. The CFL and the fans loved it, so the hammer kind of took off.”

Ouellette’s popularity was extremely high in the CFL, but it went to another level after the hammer incident. His jersey sales skyrocketed to where it reached the highest in the CFL.

This led to several opportunities for Ouellette to pursue the ideal situation for his future. After the 2023 season was over A.J. became a Free Agent.

“Through the (Free Agent) process, I had three teams reach out, Toronto, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan,” Ouellette said. “During that time before I could actually sign with a team my defensive coordinator (Corey Mace) from Toronto took that head coaching job in Saskatchewan. He’s one guy that I respect.”

The Saskatchewan Roughrider football culture ran deep into Ouellette’s heart, which is why he eventually decided to sign with the Roughriders to pursue his future football dreams.

“He played the game right, coaches the game right and knows what he wants out of his athletes, which is just hard-nosed football,” continued Ouellette in his perception of Coach Mace. “And then my running back coach (from Toronto) left with Coach Mace and is now the offensive line coach (Edwin Harrison). So I got those two and I got to talk to the offensive coordinator, Coach Marc Mueller, and his vision on running the ball is what I want.”

Once Ouellette signed with the Roughriders, he was introduced to the Saskatchewan fans through autograph signings and visiting fans at their homes. This experience made Saskatchewan feel like home for A.J.

“Saskatchewan is a football community,” Ouellette said. “I get there and it is nothing but warm greetings. I show up and there is a gift basket of all their apparel and dog items. They know I am big with my two dogs. Then I was on two radio shows, they drove me around and I had an autograph signing at the Riders’ Store, which is their apparel store. They said it was the largest single person autograph signing that they have had there. The fans were great.”

Now as a new member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Ouellette will wear number 45, which is the same number he wore in college at Ohio University.

And 45 will be the Rough Runner for the Roughriders.