Mercer Timmis grew up idolizing Jesse Lumsden.
They both grew up in Burlington and connected for the first time at a football banquet when Timmis was eight or nine and Lumsden was a star with McMaster, soon to be a high-profile member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“I was meeting one of my favourite backs at the time, ” Timmis said. “It was huge because I knew how good he was.”
That chance meeting was the foundation of an enduring friendship, one that has seen Lumsden provide Timmis with invaluable guidance during his own burgeoning football career – one that has him on the cusp of following his idol into the Canadian Football League as the next great Canuck running back.
Like Lumsden more than a decade before, Timmis has torn up Canadian Interuniversity Sport in his four seasons as a member of Calgary Dinos, racking up 44 touchdowns, three behind Lumsden on the all-time CIS list. And it was Lumsden who helped Timmis with his decision to play his university football in Calgary, navigating the multiple options that were available to the high school senior.
A number of National Collegiate Athletic Association schools were interested in Timmis – but on the defensive side of the ball. That was the same scenario pitched to Lumsden when he was deciding where to play university football.
“All of the NCAA schools wanted me to play safety or a linebacker, which I found funny because I never played a down at either of those positions, ” Lumsden said. “The stereotypes – it’s unfortunate that guys like Mercer don’t get the opportunity to play their position.”
Once in Calgary, where Lumsden has spent much of the past several years as a member of Canada’s national bobsleigh program, the two would get together to train or just talk football.
“We would always keep in contact and he was always there to give little tips, ” Timmis said.
This weekend, Timmis will showcase his skills at the CFL Combine in Toronto, where he comes in as the seventh-ranked prospect and top Canadian running back.
Lumsden didn’t attend the combine back in his day, choosing instead to hold a pro day because of the National Football League interest he was drawing.
But he knows what it’s like to go through the process of being under the microscope.
“You’re on the stage and everybody is watching you. It’s one of the few times that you are an individual athlete in a team sport where you’re performing just for yourself, ” Lumsden said.
“Guys like Mercer will do well in that situation. It’s different and you have to have fun with it, ” Lumsden added.
Lumsden told Timmis to work hard and make sure his mind and body are right for the combine.
“I want to show that I’m the complete package, on and off the field, ” Timmis said.
Lumsden, who was taken sixth overall by the Ticats in the 2005 CFL draft only to have a promising career cut short by injuries, knows that being a Canadian at a feature position comes with a different set of expectations.
“Going from being the guy in university to being a rookie in the pros is an intimidating experience, ” Lumsden said.
“It’s going to be about Mercer’s ability to work hard, adapt to new situations and grow with the game.”
Sounds like good advice.