Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Etienne savouring 'IGF Leap'

TD celebration reflects his joy as he blossoms after 'struggle'

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Jade ETIENNE waited a long time to catch one short pass of note.

The Regina-born Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver caught his first CFL touchdown pass one week ago, scoring on a five-yarder during a 37-24 loss to the visiting Calgary Stampeders.

Justin Goltz also found Etienne for a seven-yard major later in the game.

"It was a pretty simple play -- just a quick slant,'' Etienne said Thursday from Winnipeg. "It worked the first time, so they figured, 'Why not try it again?'

"It was nice to get it out of the way and just get that one over with.''

The Luther Lions and University of Saskatchewan Huskies alumnus commemorated the first touchdown by leaping into the stands at the new Investors Group Field.

"I had a few celebrations in my mind and some ideas about what I was going to do, but I just remember running into the crowd and just thinking, 'They stuck with me this long, so I might as well do the IGF Leap,' '' Etienne said with a chuckle.

The elevation was reminiscent of the 2007 Luther Invitational Tournament at which Etienne enlivened the crowd with two dunks. How did the audience respond to his latest aerobatics?

"It was OK," he said. "There was a little girl just to my right who was terrified of me. She didn't want any of it.''

Etienne earned the right to revel in the occasion after being used sparingly during his first two professional seasons.

The 6-4, 188-pounder did not register a reception in 2011 after being chosen fourth overall in the CFL draft. Last year, he had one catch for 11 yards.

So far this season, Etienne has 14 receptions for 208 yards while starting each of the Bombers' first five regular-season games.

"It's nice to be out of the criticism,'' said Etienne, 23. "It was a tough couple of years, especially the first year, just learning how to play in a faster, stronger, more physical system of football.

"When I came in, I was raw. I had only played one full season of CIS ball. I knew it would take a little bit of time, and I know I've still got a couple of more off-seasons to get bigger. I'm just learning from here on in.

"Those first two years were a struggle, I'll say that. It was tough physically and mentally. Even the media, and I know some of the fans, were a little against my pick -- skeptical, I'd say -- but overall I'm fine with it now."

The Bombers' 1-4 record does not rest as easily with Etienne.

"It's tough to lose and it's tough to be happy with my individual play while our team is struggling a bit," he said. "The best way to correct that, I think, is just to get touchdowns and to get wins, but that'll come eventually."

Etienne hopes to savour the outcome Monday when the Bombers return to action against the host B.C. Lions. Although that game is the immediate priority, has he spent any time pondering what it will be like to play in the Sept. 1 Labour Day Classic in Regina?

"Of course I've thought of it,'' he said. "I'm just going to be excited to play at Mosaic Stadium again and play against some buddies. I'm friends with Graig Newman and Craig Butler and all the Huskie boys (with the Roughriders).

"I'm just excited to go out and play in my somewhat hometown. I guess it would be my hometown, but not right now."

Etienne worked out with Newman and some other Roughriders players, such as offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld and Ben Heenan, during the off-season while training with Ignite Athletic Conditioning. Etienne attributes much of his success this season to the effort he put in during the winter.

"It was just great to be a part of a core, close-knit group of guys who every day go out and train," Etienne said. "It made the off-season a lot easier than the past couple of years."

The adjustment to the CFL has been eased by the fact that Rory Kohlert -- a fellow Reginan and Huskies graduate -- is also a part of the Bombers' receiving corps.

Kohlert, a Winston Knoll Wolverines product who has 13 catches for 175 yards this season, is coming off a five-catch, 79-yard game against Calgary.

"I'm extremely glad he's with me," Etienne said. "I feel more comfortable and I feel like I'm having more fun on the field when he's out there."

-- Regina Leader-Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2013 B4

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