Riders’ receiver Jake Harty inspired by Rob Bagg to come back from multiple ACL tears

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Canadian receiver Jake Harty sought advice from a Riders fan favourite after tearing the ACL in his knee not once, but twice.

Similar setbacks could have ended the career of fellow national pass catcher Rob Bagg in Saskatchewan, but he persevered to return to the field, win a Grey Cup and produce a career-best season.

On October 17, 2010, Bagg suffered an ACL injury against the Stampeders. While rehabbing and training for the 2011 CFL season, the Queen’s University product had the repaired knee ligament rupture.

On November 12, 2017, Harty tore the meniscus in his knee against the Roughriders in the East Semi-Final. After signing with the green and white in free agency, the University of Calgary product went down with a full ACL tear, ending his year in 2018. That November the replacement ACL ripped and another procedure was required.

“I got a cadaver the first time, it didn’t hold up properly, it snapped on me during my rehab. It just wasn’t strong enough in my knee, so this time though we did it the right way, got a quad tendon graph, screws, button hooks, got that thing nice and tight,” Harty said.

After Harty’s ACL tears happened in 2018, he talked to Bagg about his rehab process. The 2014 West Division all-star had “some amazing words” for Harty in his quest to play pro football again. Harty grew up in Calgary watching Bagg compete for the Riders.

“You see guys like him who have gone through that kind of stuff, and you know that you can go through it as well and comeback just as strong. He’s a great example of coming back strong, and that’s exactly what I want to do,” Harty said.

Harty hasn’t played in a CFL game for over three full years. Following his third season in the league, it appeared the six-foot-two, 210-pounder was on the cusp of breaking out. He caught 27 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown, the majority coming in the final 10 weeks of the 2017 season.

“Anytime you get hurt and people start to doubt whether you’ll play or not, it motivates you a lot. It’s great to see Jake, he’s one of my favourites,” head coach Craig Dickenson said.

“When he came out in the draft, everybody knew he was a really good receiver, but he was also a really good special teams player. He’s tough and the kind of guy you want on your team, you can win with guys like Jake Harty.”

While working back to full health, Harty spent the 2019 season as the assistant receivers coach with the Dinos. 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 there gave me that fire to really want to comeback strong and compete. It really made me excited for my comeback, knowing that I still have the talent to come out here and prove myself,” Harty said.

In Week 18 of the 2019 season, the Riders were in Calgary and Harty made sure to catch up with his teammates and coaches while they were in the city. The 30-year-old has rejoined the Riders on the field and is confident in his knee, which has been through three surgeries.

“I knew I still had the commitment and talent to be out here. I wanted to compete and prove to people that I can comeback from these injuries,” Harty said.

“I’ve seen many other guys pull through with these type of injuries, come out even better. That’s what I want to do and prove that I can comeback and be a better version of what I was.”

While Harty was undergoing the physical examination, which requires a pass to participate in training camp, the Riders doctor told him the surgically repaired right knee was “tighter” than his left uninjured one. That’s left Harty with no reluctancy in his return to the Riders.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.