For Jerome Messam, the Grey Cup is a home game

Jerome Messam is going home for his first Grey Cup after seven seasons and five different CFL teams.

The CFL’s leading rusher will play a prominent role for the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s game against the Ottawa Redblacks in his hometown of Toronto.

Messam, 31, played high school ball at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in the Toronto suburn of Brampton.

“It’s my first Grey Cup. It’s been seven years. I’m trying to keep my emotions at bay right now,” Messam said. “I know when we get out there on Sunday, it’s going to be just a feeling of me arriving.

“I’m from Toronto. I’m going to have a lot of family there to support me. My lady’s there. She’s pregnant right now, so I’ll be home chilling with them.”

The Stampeders flew to Toronto on Tuesday for the 104th Grey Cup.

A punishing running back at six foot three and 254 pounds, Messam has gained a foothold in Calgary after previous stops in B.C., Edmonton, Montreal and Saskatchewan that lasted two seasons or less.

He topped the CFL in rushing with 1,198 yards in 2016 and was one of just two players to surpass 1,000.

Messam is a double threat on offence because of his receiving skills. He totalled 485 passing yards and ranked second in the league in touchdowns with a combined 12 on the ground and in the air.

He set career highs this season in rushing and receiving yards, touchdowns, carries (206) and receptions (54).

Messam’s body of work earned him consideration for the CFL’s Outstanding Canadian award for a second time in his career.

He won the trophy in 2011 after rushing for 1,057 yards for the Edmonton Eskimos. At the time, Messam was just the third Canadian running back since 1960 to run for over 1,000 yards.

Messam is up against Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Andy Fantuz for the Canadian award this year. Winners will be announced Thursday night in Toronto.

“I’m very blessed for it to unfold like this,” Messam said. “Hopefully I can win the award, win the game on Sunday at home in front of family and friends. Can’t write the script any better.”

Other Stampeders playing a Grey Cup in their hometown are defensive back Junior Turner and defensive lineman Quinn Smith.

Turner and punter Rob Maver, from nearby Guelph, Ont., played in the 2012 Grey Cup in Toronto.

Calgary acquired Messam in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in October, 2015, when star Stampeder running back Jon Cornish was injured.

Messam ranked second in league rushing at the time, but the Roughriders were not going to make the playoffs and dealt him.

Cornish retired in the off-season and Messam re-signed with Calgary on the eve of free agency.

“It’s a fun place to come to work. Guys believe in our coaches and they believe in us and I think it shows on the field,” Messam said. “Speaking for the offence, coach (Dave Dickenson) knows the ins and outs like a genius.

“Our offence is very hard to stop. That just makes it easy as a player. You can go out there and play fast and confident.”

– CP