Bombers’ running back excited for opportunity to start in Labour Day Classic

Johnny Augustine won't let himself dwell on the gargantuan shoes he will, in all likelihood, attempt to fill this weekend in Regina.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/08/2019 (1188 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Johnny Augustine won’t let himself dwell on the gargantuan shoes he will, in all likelihood, attempt to fill this weekend in Regina.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back might well be in the backfield as a starter Sunday afternoon when the CFL club takes on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual Labour Day Classic.

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Johnny Augustine during practice at the University of Manitoba Wednesday morning.

League rushing leader Andrew Harris was suspended Monday for two games after testing positive for metandienone, which is a banned substance under the drug policy of the CFL and the players’ union. He’ll miss Sunday’s clash and the rematch — the Banjo Bowl — Saturday, Sept. 7 at IG Field.

Augustine, 26, has suited up in eight games for Winnipeg (8-2), rumbling for 60 yards on nine carries in limited duty, mostly in late-game situations with Harris getting a rest.

The 26-year-old from Welland, Ont., could assume a far bigger role on a grand stage the next few weeks.

“Two pretty big games, but at the end of the day it’s still football. No matter if it’s 30,000 or 50,000 people, I gotta play, no matter what. The moment I start thinking about other things, it’s gonna distract your game,” Augustine said following Wednesday’s practice.

“Obviously, I’m going in and playing a position led by as we know a future hall-of-famer in Andrew, but it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I’m ready for this moment.”

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bombers running back Andrew Harris was suspended Monday for two games after testing positive for a banned substance under the CFL drug policy.

Augustine, listed at 5-9, 206 pounds, took the majority of reps behind quarterback Chris Streveler during the club’s first on-field session since its 34-28 victory over the Eskimos Friday in Edmonton. John Santiago, a Minnesotan who has been on the practice roster since early July, also took snaps and could get some action against the Roughriders.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea also has receivers Nic Demski and Lucky Whitehead, both adept at carrying the ball, at his disposal.

After practice, O’Shea was in no mood to tip his hand four days before the opening whistle against the ‘Riders.

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Injured Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (left) and Labour Day starter, Chris Streveler.

“We’ve got several options and I’m excited about all of them,” said O’Shea. “Once again, you’ve heard me say this a bunch of times. Guys aren’t waiting for their opportunities, they’re working to earn them. And when they get them, there’s a sense of pride that they worked for it, that they weren’t handed it and there’s also a sense of commitment they have to do it right and to do it to the level expected by their teammates, even the ones they’re replacing.

“I’m saying you’ll see when we put the roster together what’s going to happen.”

But the good money’s on Augustine — a terror during five seasons at the University of Guelph, rushing for 2,742 yards on 483 carries while scoring 28 touchdowns — to get the starting assignment.

“I’m very excited. Obviously, it’s unfortunate with the situation. But at the end of the day, it’s next man up. We’ve been hearing that from Day 1, so I stay ready even if I’m not the person in. I’m really, really looking forward to it, especially one of the biggest games of the year, the Labour Day Classic. So, it’s a huge opportunity,” said Augustine, who went undrafted in 2017 and signed with Winnipeg just before training camp a year later. He appeared in nine contests last season, scoring his first and only CFL touchdown against the Eskimos.

He’s been a sponge while practising with the club and viewing things from the sidelines.

“From last year to this year, a huge jump. Just knowing the system, knowing the offence and the whole scheme behind it. So, the confidence I have compared to last year… I have that much more confidence just learning from Andrew,” he said. “Each time I went in this year I had the same purpose: authority. That’s the same thing I’m going to do, whether it’s two carries a game or 15 carries per game, it’s still the same thought process.”

Augustine said he won’t be weighed down by the pressure to perform against a tough ‘Riders defence, and he’s intent on enjoying the moment.

“I’m going to enjoy the moment. It’s very humbling but I’m excited. Whatever the case is, I just want my teammates to be confident in me, believing in me,” he said. Even when Andrew was in I was always behind him, just being ready whenever they called on me in the fourth quarter for last-minute work, getting those repetitions and showing the team I can do it when the time calls or in emergency need.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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