EDMONTON — Calvin McCarty wants the football in his hands. Always has, always will.
That’s not surprising considering McCarty, a third-year running back with the Edmonton Eskimos, is just six years removed from a season in which he rushed for 2,400 yards and 33 touchdowns during a nine-game season with the St. Thomas More Knights in Burnaby, B.C.
But while McCarty still has the mentality of the game-breaker and play-maker that saw him establish several British Columbia high school records in 2003, versatility and patience is his game plan for now.
He’s a go-to guy who is biding his time.
“I’m still a running back,” said McCarty. “I just want to have an effect on the game.
“Back in high school, it was hand the ball off, hand the ball off, hand the ball off. It’s evolved, but still, when you get the hand-off, you still get that high-school excitement. Any play can be a big play. I definitely still carry that mentality.”
McCarty, 24, began this season behind Jesse Lumsden on the depth chart at running back. Since Lumsden went down with a shoulder injury 14 minutes into Edmonton’s first game, McCarty has been splitting time in the backfield with rookie import Arkee Whitlock.
With 34 carries for 167 yards and 13 catches for 95 yards through five games going into Hamilton on Saturday, the five-foot-10, 215-pound non-import has decent numbers.
Mind you, McCarty, named CFL Canadian player of the month for July, regularly put up those kinds of numbers in one game with St. Thomas More.
“He’s been very solid since day one,” said head coach Richie Hall. “Jesse went down early and he came in and gave us a boost. For him to do what he’s accomplished in a short amount of time, it shows a lot about his play.”
While CFL rosters are laden with players who commanded the spotlight in high school or college, McCarty’s numbers as a four-year varsity starter with St. Thomas More stand out.
His 2,400 yards for the 7-2 Knights in 2003 translated to an average of 266.7 yards per game. McCarty’s 33 touchdowns gave him 84 for his career, another record, before he moved on to Boise State, Reedly College in California and Western Washington.
“Consistency over time is the key,” offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman said of McCarty’s transition to the pro ranks. “As he becomes a veteran now in this third year, that’s important.
“It’s also important to be flexible. Sometimes, you are going to be the key component in an offensive game plan. Other times, you’re not going to be because teams are keying on you. You have to remain focused and patient during the course of a game.”
Selected 27th overall by the Eskimos in the 2007 CFL Canadian Draft, McCarty played 18 games in 2007, getting just six carries for 13 yards and seven catches for 99 yards. He played 18 games again in 2008, rushing 88 times for 490 yards and adding 70 catches for 583 yards.
In both seasons, McCarty bolstered his resume by playing special teams, just as he’s doing again this year.
“The reality is that no matter what level you’ve been successful at, you might have been the star in high school, when you go to university, you’re a freshman. There’s a pecking order,” Hall said.
“We’re all rookies once. We’re all freshmen once. It’s just the pecking order and the reality of sports you go through.”