Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver Jake Harty on CFL comeback: ‘I want to prove to myself that I can overcome anything’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Everybody loves a comeback story. If the 2021 CFL season goes ahead, there’s a great one in the making on the prairies.

Canadian receiver Jake Harty re-signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Monday, signaling that he would be making a comeback for 2021.

The six-foot-two, 210-pound target played three seasons with the Ottawa Redblacks from 2015 to 2017, making 36 receptions for 307 yards and one touchdown. He signed with the Riders as a free agent in February 2018 but has yet to dress for the team.

“I think it’s definitely fair to call it a comeback,” said Harty in an interview with 3DownNation. “It’s definitely a fair thing to say. I’ve been out for three years, so it’s been a lot of lows and highs. Definitely gotta re-earn my respect and re-earn the trust of teammates and coaches. I’d call it a comeback for sure.”

Harty suffered a torn ACL in May 2018 and underwent surgery to repair the ligament. Seven months after the operation, his leg swelled up during rehabilitation. The cadaver tissue had snapped, requiring a second surgery.

The Calgary native had already missed his entire first season with Saskatchewan due to the original injury. A second knee operation would force him to miss the 2019 season as well, keeping his career on hold.

Harty used the time to coach at his alma mater, the University of Calgary. He helped the team win the Vanier Cup for the first time since 1995, earning the championship ring he narrowly missed out on as a player in 2013.

Coaching with the Dinos and engaging with the team’s close-knit community helped motivate Harty to remain diligent throughout his rehabilitation.

“We have a pretty big training group here (in Calgary). It’s pretty high intensity and we push each other,” said Harty. “Coaching really motivated me, too. Seeing the younger guys, there’s times when you want to be out there with them. Coaching kind of lit that fire again. It was like, ‘You gotta get out there and prove yourself.’ I still have so much left in the tank.”

The 29-year-old was ready to play in 2020 with his knee having made a full recovery following the second surgery. The season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which meant Harty would go a third consecutive year without seeing the field.

If CFL training camps get underway as scheduled in May 2021, it will be the first time Harty takes the field as a player since the 2017 East Division Semi-Final in Ottawa.

“It’s gonna be crazy,” said Harty. “It’s going to feel surreal for sure. There’s a lot of hard work still to do, but I feel like I’m in great shape and ready to roll. I’m ready to go out there and prove it.”

Despite the long and grueling nature of his rehabilitation, Harty never considered retirement. He’s focused on hitting the ground running in 2021 and is ready to make an impact with the Riders.

“I’m thankful for another opportunity to be able to sign a contract and have Saskatchewan believe in me. I just want to get out there and show everybody what I’m all about,” he said. “I want to prove to people in the CFL that I can still play at a high level. I want to prove to myself that I can overcome anything.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.