Gizmo Williams: Janarion Grant’s punt return TD was ‘great’ but not best of all-time

Photos: Scott Grant/Paul Yates. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

The most prolific return specialist in CFL history was impressed with Janarion Grant’s punt return touchdown this past weekend, though he doesn’t believe it’s the best of all-time.

“It’d be ranked in there but I don’t think it’d be better than mine because (Saskatchewan) just missed a lot of tackles,” Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams told 3DownNation via telephone. “For (Grant), it was a great run. For the other team, they missed so many tackles, they had a chance to get him. The coverage was bad, but it was a great run, though.”

Williams considers this 73-yard punt return against the Calgary Stampeders from 1993 to be the best of his decorated career. He made the initial defender miss before weaving through the heart of Calgary’s punt cover team and hitting a pile around the 40-yard line. Somehow, the diminutive speedster was able to power through the mess of humanity to score, capping the touchdown with his signature flip.

This past Friday, Grant scored on a 92-yard punt return touchdown to help the Blue Bombers capture a 45-27 win in Regina. He caught a bouncing punt near the right sideline midway through the third quarter and reversed field after making one defender miss, dodging six oncoming tacklers before finally breaking contain. From there, he won the footrace to the end zone.

“It was a great run because (Grant) broke a lot of tackles but from the other team’s point of view, they just didn’t tackle good,” said Williams. “He did a great job of making everybody miss and then he went down the sideline. I thought he did a great job but the contain people didn’t do a good job on the other (sideline).”

Grant has now returned seven punts for touchdowns over 35 career regular season games. He also made history last November when he set new records for most punt return yards (152) and the longest punt return (102 yards) in a Grey Cup. He is also the league’s all-time leader in career Grey Cup punt return yards (241).

Williams played 200 career CFL games as a member of the Edmonton Football Team from 1986 to 2000, minus the 1989 season, which he spent in the NFL. He still holds a number of league records, including most all-time punt returns (1,003), punt return yards (11,227), punt return touchdowns (26), kickoff returns (335), kickoff return yards (7,354), missed field goal returns (59), and missed field goal return yards (1,646).

The native of Memphis, Tenn. ranks second all-time in CFL all-purpose yards (24,007) behind only Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons. The five-foot-six, 185-pound speedster was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

The 61-year-old resides in Edmonton and watches the CFL on a regular basis. He was watching the broadcast on Friday when Grant scored and clearly found the play impressive, albeit short of the best return in league history.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.