Congratulations on stumbling into my new column, where I check in on #MizzouMade players from a variety of sports and see just what people are doing after leaving CoMo. In this inaugural piece, I'll be looking at two Canadian Football League players: QB James Franklin and RB Kendial Lawrence, both of whom featured prominently in Edmonton's 2015 season, which culminated in a Grey Cup championship.
We start with the RB, mostly because of this game tying punt return/excellent call from September (Saskatchewan would end up losing after a failed conversion and a Winnipeg FG):
Lawrence parlayed a move to the Edmonton Eskimos in 2014 into a very nice role as a jack-of-all-trades. In two seasons with the Eskimos, he managed to score 11 TDs (3 rushing, 5 receiving, 1 punt return, and 2 kickoff return). He also averaged over 6 yards per carry and caught 76 passes. After two seasons in Edmonton, Lawrence was a key free-agent acquisition for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
In the 2016 season -- which will wrap up in about a month's time -- Lawrence's rushing, receiving, and punt return averages all decreased significantly and he was released by the Roughriders.
Later Saturday, the Roughriders announced they had released Lawrence — one of their prized free-agent signings in the off-season.
The 25-year-old played 11 games with Saskatchewan before being scratched for its game Sept. 18 against the Edmonton Eskimos.
After Lawrence was put on the suspended list prior to the Roughriders’ game Sept. 24 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Jones said it was because Lawrence had gone home to attend to a family emergency.
Lawrence didn’t live up to expectations with the Roughriders, based on his previous efforts with Edmonton. With Saskatchewan, he had 27 punt returns for 286 yards (including an 85-yard TD in the Labour Day Classic), 33 kickoff returns for 690 yards, and three missed field-goal returns for 50 yards.
On October 10th, Lawrence signed with his original CFL team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and was placed on their practice squad. However, it was announced on October 19th that, due to a suspension, Lawrence would be promoted to the main squad:
Banks will be eligible to return to Hamilton’s lineup Nov. 5 for its regular-season finale against Montreal at Tim Hortons Field. Austin said veteran Kendial Lawrence will come off the practice roster to returns kicks in Banks’ absence.
"We’re confident in Kendial . . . he’s a proven player, a proven returner and so we feel like we’re going to be OK."
Game Day CFL tonight! Glad to be part of a great team of friends ☃ pic.twitter.com/UiPtsQ945e— James Franklin (@JFrankTank1) August 6, 2016
Franklin was the last QB to manage consistent success at Mizzou, and since then he has taken strides to improve his game in the CFL. In 2015, Franklin signed with Edmonton (and was a teammate of Kendial Lawrence). He filled in for an injured Mike Reilly for two starts and impressed. Overall, Franklin managed to go 84-of-133 for 973 yards and 6 TDs, along with 140 rushing yards and a score, in 17 games including the two fill-in starts.
Coming into the 2016 season, Franklin began to draw a lot of attention. Pat Steinberg heaped praise on him based on preseason work:
Franklin was very good against the Stamps, completing 10 of 14 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in his allotted time. It was a solid outing for Franklin who looked more confident than he did in his two starts during the 2015 regular season. A big reason for that was how well he delivered the ball.
Franklin worked hard this off-season to refine his throwing motion and that was noticeable on Saturday. The biggest area Franklin worked on was efficiency, as he wanted to eliminate wasted energy. It sure did look like he was firing balls in quicker than last year.
Steinberg went on to suggest that Eskimo fans would be able to feel comfortable if their starter again missed time due to injury. However, to this point in the season, Franklin has been relegated to clipboard duty behind one of the league's better QBs. For a longer look at Franklin's preseason (and "glimpse of the future" style) hype, check out "The Long Read: Is James Franklin The Next Big Thing" by Jeff Krever, wherein he speculates that Franklin could very well be a star in the making.
Despite his lack of playing time in 2016, Franklin's star seems to continue rising. After being tied to trade rumors in the preseason (with a supposed asking price of a recent 1st round pick plus a future 1st round pick!), he has been mentioned in the rumor mills of the teams already looking ahead to next season, such as the Calgary Stampeders:
Even though most established quarterbacks are under contract for next season, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any available.
Does Travis Lulay want to spend another year as Jon Jennings’ backup in B.C.? What about Drew Tate in Calgary? James Franklin isn’t going to be the starter in Edmonton anytime soon. Matt Nichols and Kevin Glenn are both potential free agents in Winnipeg. Henry Burris isn’t going to want to hold a clipboard next year. What are the Argos going to do with Ricky Ray?
While it appears that Franklin is a rising name while Lawrence may be fading, it is worth noting that the two youngsters are both only 25, and could yet have a number of years in their careers. It's also worth noting that two other #MizzouMade players are listed on the CFL page as league players: Tony Criswell, who made the jump from hoops and played in a single game, and Michael Sam, who also played in a single game. However, neither appear to be currently involved with a squad.
I hope you've enjoyed visiting these #MizzouMade players with me. Look for subsequent columns to focus on a variety of athletes from across the landscape of sport. If you have any particular suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments or let me know via Twitter. Thanks!