NOVEMBER 13, 2022 – TORONTO, CANADA
At every level A.J. Ouellette has played football he has always became a fan favorite. It happened in high school and in college at Ohio University and now A.J. is a fan favorite for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
That was evident on Sunday in the Eastern Division Final against the Montreal Alouettes as every time A.J. got the ball and his name was announced by the stadium announcer a roar exploded from the Argonaut crowd. Then, after the game, fans mobbed Ouellette for autographs and photos.
It is amazing to see how a kid from the small town of Covington, Ohio has become so popular.
The reason for his popularity is uncertain, but maybe it is because people tend to root for the underdog. A.J. has been the underdog since his high school days where he didn’t receive a single scholarship offer after racking up record-breaking numbers at Covington.
His story is well documented where he walked on at Ohio University and quickly became a star. He then put up impressive number at his Pro Day, but didn’t receive much attention from NFL teams. Ouellette did try out for the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, but didn’t receive a legitimate opportunity to showcase his talent in game action.
Toronto signed Ouellette in 2019, but the season was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A.J. only played in six games in 2021 and was relegated to the backup role to start 2022 behind Andrew Harris – a running back many Canadians consider one of the best backs in CFL history.
Midway through the 2022 season Harris was injured and Ouellette became the featured back. And like he has done every other time he was given a legitimate opportunity to shine, Ouellette not only kicked the door in, he demolished it.
He ignited Toronto – who was an up-and-down team at the midpoint of the season – to an Eastern Division Championship and a birth into the playoffs against Montreal. In the process, Ouellette became a fan favorite and was chosen an All Star in the Eastern Division of the CFL.
On Sunday, with a birth in the Grey Cup on the line, everything came to the forefront for Ouellette as he and his family were followed all day by TSN, which was documenting every moment for a profile on A.J. they will broadcast for the Grey Cup.
And A.J. gave TSN (https://www.tsn.ca/) some great action clips as he once again ignited the Argonauts early and then closed the show late to seal a 34-27 win over the Alouettes.
Toronto went on defense first and Argos made a quick stop to force a punt and Ouellette got the Argonauts rolling by catching the ball out of the backfield where he broke loose for 46 yards to set Toronto up inside the 20. This led to a short touchdown run by Andrew Harris, who returned from injury.
On Toronto’s next possession Ouellette took a swing pass in the flat and dove over the goal line for a seven-yard score and a 14-3 lead.
For much of the remainder of the game Ouellette was used as a decoy as he only touched the ball once after the Argonauts built a 21-3 lead until Toronto’s final possession of the game. Clinging to a 34-27 lead with 4:07 left on the clock, and with the ball on the final drive, Ouellette carried the ball four times for 28 yards and two critical first downs – the final one coming on a 14-yard scamper that allowed Toronto to drain the remainder of the clock.
And as the clock ticket away, A.J. was mobbed by the media, where his interview was heard over the stadium’s speaker system – an interview that brought a roaring applause by the Argonaut fans. Then, after conducting several interviews, A.J. leaped the barrier and raced up into the crowd to give his wife Haley a big hug as fans captured the moment on their cell phones.
After Ouellette and the Argonauts celebrated their big victory on the field, fans waited over an hour for A.J. to come out of the locker room. And once he came through the door, he was swarmed by youngsters wanting autographs, which he obliged by signing every piece of Argonaut merchandise presented by fans – some being number 34 jerseys with A.J.’s name on the back.
Many family and fans were then invited down onto the field with A.J. and some of his teammates for photo opportunities and more autographs. One Argonaut fan was a youngster who idolizes Ouellette due to a moment after a previous game where A.J. lifted him into the air in celebrating a victory. The young man’s mother wiped away tears as A.J. signed the jersey and took pictures with her son.
It didn’t end on the field as fans waited outside the stadium for Ouellette. As A.J. came through the door to say goodbye to his family and friends who made the trip to Toronto from Covington, Ohio, more fans asked for autographs and photos. Once again, A.J. obliged, while the TSN video crew continued to video the moments.
The journey for A.J. Ouellette continues next Sunday in this biggest game of Canadian football, the Grey Cup. Ouellette and the Argonauts will battle Winnipeg for the CFL Championship at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan at 6:00pm EST.