Westshore Rebels grad Greg Morris made his Canadian Football League debut on Monday, but saw little action.
The former star Rebels running back was inserted into the roster as a backup to Chad Simpson by the Edmonton Eskimos, who lost the annual Labour Day matchup 16-7 to the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.
Wearing No. 19, Morris was signed to the practice roster by the Eskimos on Aug. 17. The five-foot-11, 200-pounder was activated this week for his first pro game.
The Toronto native — who established the Canadian Junior Football League record for rushing yards in one game with the Rebels in his second season in Victoria in 2012 — had been preparing for his first opportunity.
“It’s been fun. I thought it would be difficult coming into it,” Morris said recently. “Ever since I first came here, I’ve just been putting in the work, getting better every day and learning the plays. I’ve been studying the playbook from early in the morning to late afternoons.”
Morris is well known on the Island after his two strong seasons with the Rebels. He was named the B.C. Football Conference rookie of the year in 2011, when he ran for 1,064 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
He then set the CJFL single-game rushing record with his 405-yard rushing performance against Kamloops in October 2012. He ran the ball 24 times that day and scored four touchdowns. Morris finished that year with 1,496 rushing yards, the fifth-highest total ever in the CJFL, slipping ahead of former Vancouver Island Raider (and current B.C. Lion) Andrew Harris, who had recorded 1,476 yards in 2009.
Morris was a CJFL All-Canadian in 2012 prior to joining New Mexico Military Institute. In 10 games there he recorded 151 carries for 995 yards with seven touchdowns, added 11 receptions for 153 yards with one TD and three kick returns for 53 yards.
Morris was in the San Jose area, speed training, when the Eskimos called in August. Morris wasn’t sure if he was ready for pro ball because he had taken a year off from the sport.
“I’m just trying to be ready for this new level. I just have to take the positive energy and hopefully good things come from it,” he said prior to getting in this week. “It’s a good opportunity and anyone who gets this type of opportunity needs to take it, and not take it for granted.
“Going to B.C. was a big change for me from high school. I got used to it as quick as I could and it’s helped me a lot for here as well,” he added of initially joining the practice roster.
Other Eskimos have blazed the trail from the practice roster, including wide receiver Derel Walker, who moved to the active roster in Week 8, and Monday’s starting quarterback James Franklin, who began the year on the practice roster and was activated in Week 3.
“Seeing them gives you that extra motivation, knowing that you could probably play in the season. You just need to get that chance to get in there,” said Morris.