It takes several parts to operate the green and white rushing machine.
Running back Jamal Morrow has seen a lot of the recognition this season, which included being named a Top Performer in the CFL for the month of June on Wednesday.
But it takes the blocking of players like fullback Albert Awachie to clear the path for the Rider rushing machine to function.
Even though the running game has been the engine that has been driving the Riders offence in 2022, Awachie says they are capable of being effective in both the passing and running games. “It kind of goes with the flow, like we saw last game, whatever the defence kind gives us I think we’re going to take advantage of it. I think we have a great play coordinator in (Jason) Maas , I think he’s going to make the right calls and we’re going to execute.
The fullback wouldn’t consider himself a true lineman but says they share several traits. “We’re in those meetings, when it comes to the footwork, the schemes, the gap schemes, the pulling and all that stuff, I guess you wouldn’t be wrong to say we aren’t an extension of it, but primarily those front five are the front line and get the push going.”
To provide a lead block in the running game takes a lot of sacrifice says the fullback. “Whether it comes from my family, I have a big family like I have a big team here so it kind of one and one, it meshes together , that’s just my mindset, whatever I can do for the team.”
Collegiately, Awachie played wide receiver and defensive back with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Even though he’s a fullback, the 29 year old feels he still plays a skill position, the only difference now there is more physicality with the position change.
Recognition is usually hard to come by for fullbacks, but Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson has been quick to give praise to his fullbacks for the work they do on the field. Awachie appreciates the compliments but adds he won’t lose focus because of it. “I’m just trying to do what I can and do what I can control, I’m happy about it but that’s not going to make my ego jump, I’m just going to try and stay even keel.
The league leader in rushing, Morrow, says the fullbacks have been integral in the rushing attack. “Both have been absolute tanks, just taking on blocks, play after play after play. Just wearing the other team down.”
Riders QB Cody Fajardo is looking forward to giving the fullbacks a special gift in the future. “Hopefully we can throw them a couple of passes down the line, reward them for their hard work.”
There is plenty of unity within the running back room according to Awachie. “We’re really close together, I mean all of our lockers are close together, we’re chatting from the morning all the way until we we leave and then if we have questions we text each other, we’re definitely close.”
Friday night, the Riders welcome the Ottawa Redblacks to Mosaic Stadium. Even with the green and white facing a winless Ottawa team who will be hungry for their first win, Awachie says it boils down to his team’s execution. “Knowing who we are as a unit, knowing our identity and stick to it.”
You can tune into Friday’s game on 620 CKRM with Michael Ball, opening kickoff is 7:30.