Rookie Stamps RB Don Jackson bursts onto CFL scene, leads league in rushing

It’s been quite the CFL debut for Don Jackson.

The Calgary Stampeders running back has led the CFL in rushing in each of the first two weeks, accumulating 210 yards. Not only does that work out to over 100 yards per game, the first-year CFL player is also averaging a sparkling 10 yards per rushing attempt.

The five-foot-10, 202-pound Jackson combines with sophomore Terry Williams to give Calgary a solid two-headed rushing attack. Williams 5-9, 209-pounds, has run for 103 yards on 19 carries (5.4-yard average) but also had a 102-yard punt return for a TD in the Stampeders’ lopsided 41-7 Grey Cup rematch win over the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday night.

“I told you we had a good running back, and I knew we’d have a good running game,” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said. “We’re a balanced team that likes to switch it up and make sure our offensive linemen are firing off the ball and Don has looked the part and done well.”

Canadian Jerome Messam registered consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with Calgary (2016-17) before signing with Saskatchewan in the off-season.

Jackson signed with Calgary in May after spending time with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. Canadian football is predominantly a passing game but the longer, wider field can potentially present big running lanes for backs.

Jackson finished with 123 yards rushing on 12 carries (13.7-yard average) against Toronto while Williams had 70 yards on 12 attempts (5.8 yards).

After he ripped off a 70-yard run, Jackson was reminded of the first lesson he learned in training camp.

“Get in shape, man,” Jackson said with a chuckle. “The long run I had I was definitely beating myself up like, ‘I’ve got to get into even better shape to where we can pull those things out no matter what the situation is.’

“It (100-yard game) is a blessing for sure. All I know is we’ve got a talented group of receivers and a talented offensive line. And when Bo (quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell) does his thing like he does, it’s hard to play the run the way you want.”

Williams appeared in five games with Calgary last season, starting one. On Sept. 29, he ran for 156 yards and three TDs in a 59-11 home win over Montreal, earning CFL player-of-the-week honours.

Mitchell, the 2016 CFL MVP, was nearly flawless Saturday night, completing 20-of-22 passes for 324 yards and three TDs.

“We’ve got some weapons out there and we don’t want to get complacent,” Mitchell said. “But I am proud of Terry and Don with everything they’re doing right now but they’ll tell you it has a lot to do with what (offensive linemen) are doing.

“It doesn’t allow teams to drop nine and play pass first and try to react to the run like they’ve done to us the last couple years. They’ve got to respect those guys and try to make plays on them and when they do we need to make plays behind them.”

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