Riders’ superhero: how A.J. Ouellette became known as Thor

Graphic courtesy: CFL

The hammer-wielding, superhero-looking running back has descended upon Saskatchewan.

Former Toronto Argonauts’ ball carrier A.J. Ouellette signed a two-year contract with the Roughriders in free agency and explained how he earned his Norse god moniker.

“Everybody wants to be a superhero. I’ve wanted to be The Hulk, Captain America, all these different superheroes. Someone called me ‘Thor’ one day. I’m like, you know what? Thor’s a great superhero to try to be. My nephew bought me a Thor hammer from Toys R Us,” the muscly RB said.

“We were going to Hamilton for a game. You can’t beat having a hammer in The Hammer. I brought it and there was some chirping going on during the game, stuff said to my o-linemen that I didn’t appreciate. We had the sealing touchdown, our punter John Haggerty had the hammer waiting and I said: ‘This is coming on the field.’ The fans and the CFL loved it. That’s how the hammer came to life.”

The five-foot-nine, 210-pound ball of muscle teased his decision to join the Riders by painting his Thor hammer green and posting that on social media. He had the hammer with him at his introductory press conference. Riderville seems to be excited about watching his thunder-and-lightning running style at Mosaic Stadium.

“I’ve played here twice, one being the Grey Cup, it was a good turnout, and the other one last year was my 1,000-yard game,” Ouellette said.

The 28-year-old scored two touchdowns in the 109th CFL championship game. During the Argos’ Week 20 win last year, he ran 10 times for 50 yards and one major to give him 1,009 rushing yards, averaging 5.7 per carry, with 10 total touchdowns in the 2023 regular season.

“He’s a downhill runner, very physical, great work ethic. I felt like we needed to improve running the ball. You have to have success running the ball, especially later in the year when it starts to get a little bit colder,” general manager Jeremy O’Day said.

When Ouellette suits up for the Green and White, it’ll be with a different number on his jersey. George Reed wore No. 34 during his 13 seasons from 1963 until 1975, carrying the ball 3,243 times for 16,116 yards and 134 touchdowns. The 10-time all-star remains the league’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and 1,000-yard seasons with 11.

“I knew that number was off-limits before I had a talk with Coach [Corey] Mace; green and white and 45 are very familiar,” Ouellette said referencing his switch to the number he wore during his university days at Ohio. “I knew the legend that [Reed] was through the league and how great he was in the community. Now they have awards named after him.”

“Every story I’ve heard about his legendary career, who he was in the community, is who a player should try to strive to be in whatever city that they’re playing in. Come to work, do the best that you can to put yourself in a situation to win each and every week, and be a respectful person in the community.”

Ouellette will be wearing 45 when the Riders open the season on Saturday, June 8 against the Edmonton Elks.

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