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'He's made us increase our level of intensity': Riders' running backs learning from veteran A.J. Ouellette

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Last season the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ number one running back was Jamal Morrow, who is now a CFL free agent. This year the green and white have veteran A.J. Ouellete to lead the group.

“I mean its tough coming into a new environment, you want to earn the respect and not just show up and it be given. So at first it was just ‘How can I show how things should be done?’ First two, three weeks of camp,” Ouellette explained. “Now it’s being a little bit more vocal and telling guys what we’re expecting from the O-line, from the running back room.”

Mace says he has been pushing for Ouellete to be more vocal in his leadership role.

“But he’s always going to lead by example. If the guy couldn’t speak a word you [would] just follow what he’s doing and you’re in good company,” Mace said.

Fellow running back Frankie Hickson agrees with the head coach’s assessment.

“I think he’s a great leader, a great guy, who’s just going to come in and work,” he said. “That’s all he’s been doing since he got here is work, work, work and what’s come with that is he’s made us increase our level of intensity.”

Hickson was the number two behind Morrow last season. The two had a tight relationship both on and off the field. They even referred to one another as “Mario and Luigi” given their tight bond.

“That’s tough [that he’s not here this season]. But we still talk and one thing that he wanted me to know was he wanted the best for me regardless of the situation. You kind of learn how to kind of pick up and go and deal with losing people [in this sport],” Hickson said.

The theme of nicknames based on beloved pop culture figures continues with Ouellette who is often referred to as “Thor” and has even added the iconic hammer to his game celebrations and “CFL look.”

When asked who Hickson could resemble in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be an addition to Ouellete’s Thor-like antics, both were stumped.

“[I’d be] willing to be The Hulk, Captain American, or Black Panther, anything that it takes The Avengers to bring a Grey Cup to Saskatchewan,” Hickson laughed.

“I’m trying to think of someone that’s fast. Black Panther? Is he Marvel? That’s what I’d give him as a title,” Oullette said.

“Trevor’s [Harris] is Captain America,” he added jokingly.

Last season Hickson had 35 carries for 157 yards in 10 games. Ouellette recorded 178 carries for 1,009 yards in 15 games.

Despite Ouellette being a well known veteran in the league, he feels he is learning from Hickson since arriving in Rider Nation.

“He’s a good guy to learn from and some of the stuff he does on the field is things that I can’t do so I’m always like ‘Hey you want to teach me how to do that?’” Ouellette exclaimed.

“So it’s been fun.”

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