William Stanback can make Montreal the ‘best run offence’ in the CFL: Alouettes FB Christophe Normande

Courtesy: AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

They say continuity on the offensive line is the key to success in the run game, but ensuring you have a veteran presence at fullback doesn’t hurt either.

The Montreal Alouettes will have both again next season, thanks to the resigning of 30-year-old Christophe Normande to a two-year contract extension.

The former Laval University running back has embraced the dirty work over the past two seasons, aiding in pass protection and becoming the unsung hero in the success of star running back William Stanback.

“I was always a runner, so I guess being a fullback is somewhat close to that,” Normand laughed during an appearance on TSN 690 in Montreal. “I help Stanback get his big runs in. I’m still very happy with the way I contribute on offence.”

During Normand’s two years in Montreal, Stanback has topped the thousand-yard mark both times, rushing for a combined 2,224 yards and eight touchdowns. That has put him in rarified air across the league, but Normand is not yet ready to put him in a class of his own. Another former teammate still deserves to be in the conversation as the CFL’s best running back.

“He is up there,” Normand said coyly. “I don’t want to give my opinion necessarily on other running backs, but I’ve played with Andrew Harris also — who is a great teammate — and he’s probably up there also. I mean, he’s just won two Grey Cups with his hometown team, that’s kind of a Cinderella story.”

Normand was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2015 and got to see Harris’ first two campaigns in the city where he grew up. The future Hall of Fame Canadian running back led the CFL in rushing yards for three straight seasons from 2017 to 2019, before Stanback took over the crown in 2021 when the 35-year-old Harris was slowed by injury.

With Harris now in Toronto, that gives a decided edge to Stanback in any conversation about the best running back in the league.

“Stanback, statistics-wise anyways, the past few seasons he’s been pretty much the top running back,” Normand acknowledged. “I know with him, we definitely have the possibility of being the best run offence this upcoming season.”

That’s not such a bold claim based on what the Alouettes put on the field last season. After being edged out by the Bombers in team rushing in 2019, the Larks obliterated the league with 2,023 yards on the ground last season — a lead over Winnipeg of almost 350 yards. That came as result of 41 more carries, but Montreal still managed to lead the league with a 5.6 yard average.

The Bombers will need a big step forward from the tandem of Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine to challenge that mark, while Harris’ Argonauts haven’t upgraded their offensive line after finishing seventh in rushing last season.

With almost their entire offence returning, the Alouettes expect to keep rolling along the ground. That’s something that Normand takes great pride in, even though he’s rarely the one toting the rock. Every big Stanback run or score is a credit to them all.

“We all run to him, the whole offence, and we celebrate that,” Normand said. “That’s part of the camaraderie.”