Ex-Redblacks running back Johnson will reunite with family in B.C.

 

 
 
 
 
Ottawa Redblacks' Jeremiah Johnson leaves the field with ice on his beard after Grey Cup football practice in Winnipeg, Man., on Friday, November 27, 2015.
 
 

Ottawa Redblacks' Jeremiah Johnson leaves the field with ice on his beard after Grey Cup football practice in Winnipeg, Man., on Friday, November 27, 2015.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, Ottawa Citizen

Being so far away and watching his then-eight-month-old son Isaac stand up and walk for the first time during a FaceTime conversation was tough on Jeremiah Johnson.

The Ottawa Redblacks running back was excited about the milestone steps, yet he knew he needed to be around his wife and two children, who were living in Oregon, more. So when he got an opportunity to become a CFL free agent Tuesday at noon, despite his love for the football environment in Ottawa he was hoping he could play somewhere closer to home. The B.C. Lions gave him that opportunity Wednesday, signing him to a one-year deal worth about $75,000, a $10,000 bump up from what he made last season with the Redblacks. He’ll be able to spend more time with wife Shanel, six-year-old daughter Jordyn and Isaac, who’s now one.

“Being on the east coast, that was hard at times,” said Johnson. “I’m getting back where it all kind of started for me — on the west coast. My morale was low sometimes because I wasn’t around my family. I couldn’t reach over and kiss my wife, hug and kiss my kids. That can take a toll on a father who’s really involved with his kids.

“I missed quality time with my son; he was three months old when I went to Ottawa last year. I came back home (at the end of the season) and he was looking at me like a stranger.

“You want to be there for the first walk, the first words, the first time for everything. One day, I was casually talking to my wife (on FaceTime) and she goes, ‘Oh my God, I think he’s going to walk.’ He just started going after it. Now, he’s running … just like his old man.”

Johnson had a very good year in Ottawa, rushing for 448 yards with nine touchdowns after taking over the starting job from Chevon Walker. He also had 42 catches for 267 yards. But a foot injury in early October kept him out of action for the remainder of the season. While Johnson, who turns 29 on Monday, insists he isn’t bitter, he says he was healthy enough and should have been back in the Redblacks lineup for the Grey Cup, which Ottawa lost 26-20 to Edmonton.

“I started feeling better a few weeks after the injury,” said Johnson. “My foot wasn’t broken or dislocated, it was just a minor sprain. If you ask me, I was ready to go at the beginning of the playoffs. Sometimes you get lost in the shuffle. I should have been in that lineup and I should have been a major part of helping that team win the Grey Cup.

“I’m not taking anything away from (Will) Powell. I thought he did a great job when I went down. In a game where it’s winner takes all, you want to bring all your weapons, everything you have in your arsenal. But sometimes it’s not about who’s the best, sometimes decisions are made based on who’s going to be a free agent or things like that. They made their decision that way, I believe.”

Maybe it was a bit of a money thing, maybe it was about respect and it certainly was a lot about family, but a couple of months ago Johnson had a pretty good idea he’d be looking for a new colour of uniform and a new place to live.

“I had an inkling I wouldn’t be back, but it’s one of those things you don’t want to believe,” he said. “Ottawa’s a great city, the organization’s great, the fans are awesome, but as a competitor I was keeping myself on point mentally and physically for anything. I have no negative feelings towards Ottawa. They gave me an opportunity and I’m blessed and thankful for that.

“You want to be where you’re wanted. But it’s still about numbers and decimals. It’s a business. You just want to be compensated for your efforts.”

And now that he’s a Lion, now that there’s some certainty about what the 2016 season will bring, Johnson can get prepared for what he loves so much to do — play football.

“It can be stressful, not knowing, being a free agent, but I’m glad everything is done so I can really start focusing on my body and the task at hand,” he said. “A lot of teams were leery about my full-season capacity, but at this point, it’s all about staying healthy and getting my body ready. This will be my third year in the league and I’m understanding more and more how to get in work physically. This is an opportunity I have to show the league I can go a whole season. It starts with the organization believing in you. I’m happy (I’m a Lion).”

Twitter: @TimCBaines

 
 
 
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Ottawa Redblacks' Jeremiah Johnson leaves the field with ice on his beard after Grey Cup football practice in Winnipeg, Man., on Friday, November 27, 2015.
 

Ottawa Redblacks' Jeremiah Johnson leaves the field with ice on his beard after Grey Cup football practice in Winnipeg, Man., on Friday, November 27, 2015.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, Ottawa Citizen

 
Ottawa Redblacks' Jeremiah Johnson leaves the field with ice on his beard after Grey Cup football practice in Winnipeg, Man., on Friday, November 27, 2015.
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