February 3, 2023

“I want to score a touchdown every time I touch the ball”

Janarion Grant is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds – official measurements that don’t just make him one of the smallest dudes on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster, but in the entire Canadian Football League.

Yet, ask those he shares the Blue Bombers clubhouse with – and will continue to do so after officially signing a one-year contract extension Friday rather than test free agency – and the consensus is this: Janarion Grant is one tough hombre.

That salute to his toughness has also been echoed on numerous occasions by one of the toughest hombres to ever play the three-down game in Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea.

“I’ve heard that he’s said that, and it means a lot,” Grant said Friday in a chat with from his offseason base in Tampa, FL. “Just for me to be on his team and on this squad, it’s an honour.

“I appreciate him and especially Coach Bou (Special Teams Coordinator Paul Boudreau). I put my trust in those guys and they have me ready each and every game, each and every play.”

Getting Grant’s name on a new deal whittles the Blue Bombers list of pending free agents down by one in advance of the CFL’s ‘legal tampering period’ which allows players and agents to gauge their worth before the free agent market opens on February 14th.

It’s also massive for both the player and the team, as Grant – in just 33 games with the Blue Bombers dating back to 2019 – is already the franchise’s all-time kick return touchdown leader, with seven and counting. That total is nine all-time, if his punt return touchdowns in the Western Final and Grey Cup are included.

“I’m back because of the culture there in Winnipeg,” said Grant, who described contract negotiations with the club as ‘smooth.’ “The guys there work hard but have fun and for me to be able to play the sport I love means everything to me. And falling short by one point in the Grey Cup… I’ve watched it a lot ever since it happened and looked at the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. That’s the game of football.

“I just want to be prepared and ready to chase that again in the new season. That drives all of us to come back stronger.”

Grant, FYI, became the franchise all-time leader against the B.C. Lions on October 15th with a 94-yard return that moved him past Keith Stokes.

“I was surprised when I found that out that night,” said Grant. “I mean, I want to score a touchdown every time I touch the ball and being a franchise leader is amazing. It shows me I can do great things and continue to do great things with my preparation and having the mentality of wanting to be the greatest.”

Grant earned his first berth on the CFL All-Star team in 2022 after leading the league in punt-return yards (817) and third in the league in kickoff return average (25.2 yards). That marked the sixth time a Blue Bomber had been honoured since the returner position was added to the all-star squad in 1986. The others on that list include Eric Blount (1998) Albert Johnson III (2000, 2006), Charles Roberts (2001) and Keith Stokes (2004).

Grant also saw his offensive workload increase slightly, as he had six receptions for 54 yards and added 74 yards on eight carries. Those totals, coupled with his work in the kick-return game, gave him 111 touches last year – only running back Brady Oliveira had more, with 225 (202 carries and 23 receptions).

And there’s a very real sense all his numbers – the kick return totals and his touches on offence – could only continue to grow.

“This is what I’ve been doing all my life,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep going and keep adding things to my arsenal. It’s about playing smart, being physical and trusting my speed. I just want to prove myself to anyone, and especially my teammates, that I can go out there and do special things.”