All these years later, Jon Cornish can still tell the story. He was a young running back at Kansas, a rare Canadian in Division I football, and he was firmly in the dog house.
Kansas coach Mark Mangino was demanding more. Cornish couldn’t get on the field. And Mangino used a few words of motivation that still linger in the recesses of Cornish’s mind.
Mangino threatened to ship Cornish back to Canada. He had no use for a running back that couldn’t cut it.
“He saw that I wasn’t at the level that he needed me to be at,” Cornish
. “Maybe he thought that was because I was Canadian.”
Cornish, now a veteran with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL, was reminded of those words again on Thursday, when he became just the third Canadian, and first since 1978, to be chosen as the Gibson’s Finest CFL Most Outstanding Player.
The award came after Cornish led the CFL in rushing yards (1,813), touchdowns (14) and yards from scrimmage (2,157). He also set records for most rushing yards in a season by a Canadian and most yards from scrimmage in a season by a Canadian.
“It’s funny how you can basically go from the dog house to where I am today,” Cornish said after receiving the award. “… Mangino, he said those things, but he said them because he wanted me to improve as a football player.”
Cornish was also selected the league’s top Canadian for the second straight year. He joins Tony Gabriel (1978) and Russ Jackson (1963, ’66,’69) as the only Canadians to win the CFL MOP award.
“I’m normally pretty good at accommodating new things,” Cornish said. “… really it’s a dream I’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time.”