Former Bobcat running back finds success on Canadian turf

Former Ohio running back Chris Garret has made his home in the Canadian Football League after leaving the Bobcats. His Winnipeg Blue Bombers made it to the Grey Cup last season.

(Greg Roberts | File Photo)

The dimensions of the field differ; there are fewer downs and more players, but to former Ohio running back Chris Garrett, it’s still just football.

Garrett is carrying the pigskin north of the border in the backfield of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He has handled the transition to the pro game and the off-field parts of the game that come with playing professionally.

“It’s a great feeling to be blessed to have my own jersey, let alone have people walk around in it,” Garrett said. “Every time I see somebody in it, it’s like a blink of reality like, I’m somebody now.”

Canadians love football, but it is no secret that hockey is the national pastime. The return of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets has brought that crazed environment back to the city.

Garret has embraced hockey more because the football season ends around the same time hockey season begins.

“I’ve actually been to a few Jets games, it’s so unreal. It’s a great experience each time that I go,” he said. “I hadn’t watched hockey or been to a hockey game before … to see people thrive off of it, it is a feeling and experience that I didn’t expect, but it’s one that I enjoy being around.”

In only his second season with the team, Garrett helped lead the Blue Bombers to the Grey Cup championship game, the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl. But the Bombers fell to the British Columbia Lions 34-23.

“I had a great time, even though we didn’t win,” Garrett said. “I’m looking to go back and win it this season.”

This past season, Garrett ran for 576 yards and four touchdowns in the pass-heavy league. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and was the team’s second leading rusher.

Ohio offensive coordinator Tim Albin said Garrett’s versatility as a running back and kick returner serve him well in the Canadian game.

When the Bobcats brought Garrett in, they knew it would be bad to have him sit on the depth chart behind all-time great Kalvin McRae. Instead, Garrett was put on special teams.

“We had to get him on the field somehow,” Albin said. “To do that, we put him as a receiver and as a return guy. He helped us win a lot of games.”

When Garrett got his chance to be the featured back in the Ohio offense, he did not disappoint. Garrett broke Tony Carifa’s 1980 record for all-purpose yards in a single game in 2008 against Miami with 321 yards.

Donte Harden surpassed the record by one yard in a game against Temple last season.

Blue Bombers’ special teams coordinator and running backs coach Kyle Walters said Garrett’s transition was not easy.

Walters said Garrett struggled to make the roster. He was around the team for a period of time and then he would disappear and return.

Once Garrett got his chance, he was “absolutely dynamite,” and his perseverance was key for him, Walters added.

“I think, with the bigger Canadian field, it’s more of a spread offensive attack. Chris has fit right in,” Walters said. “He’s a fast, real powerful runner, and he has decent hands coming out of the backfield.”

Some players make the jump from the CFL to the NFL, but Garrett remains committed and focused on his time with the Blue Bombers, but said he wouldn’t mind being given a look from the NFL.

“The NFL has always been my dream. Right now, I am not too worried about the NFL — that’s not where I’m playing right now,” Garrett said. “I’m playing in the CFL and that’s what I am focusing on, but, if the NFL came calling, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot.”

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