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A.J. Ouellette puts the hammer down in Saskatchewan

The move of all-star running back A.J. Ouellette from the Toronto Argonauts to the Saskatchewan Roughriders was a major story in CFL free agency this week.
Running back A.J. Ouellette will be bringing all his superpowers to Rider Nation this season.

REGINA - All-star running back A.J. Ouellette has officially arrived at Mosaic Stadium after his free agent signing this week with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“It feels great, it feels like home,” said Ouellette to reporters as he was introduced at Mosaic Stadium on Wednesday, one day after he signed with the Riders on the first day of CFL free agency..

As for why it felt like home, he pointed to “just the greetings I’ve got from everyone in the organization, and even already fans. My flight from Toronto to here, I had fans already reach out to me and talk to me saying they’re excited for me to get to the city. They’re actually shocked that I was already flying in. I had a good little joke about Coach (Corey) Mace starting practice today, but that’s not true.”

Ouellette, who comes to the Riders following a successful tenure with the Toronto Argonauts, is looking forward to wearing the Green and White. He points to his experiences playing in Mosaic Stadium as a reason why he wanted to come here.

“I played here twice, one being the Grey Cup. It was a good turn out, and the other one last year was my thousand yard game. So, just continuing great games in the stadium. 

“But during my time here, you know just in the hotel, the Sask fans are just fans of football. I just want football fans, like, that’s what I am. I’m a football player, not really a running back. I’m just playing the game, doing what I have to to win, and the community and how they appreciate the game football and the way it should be played is a big reason I’m here.”

He said new Riders head coach Corey Mace, who previously had been defensive coordinator in Toronto, was a key reason why he signed.

“He’s been amazing. He was probably the leading cause of my decision, just the way that he coached, the way that he leads men. A coach and a father, a husband, a guy in my situation can look up to.”

Ouellette is also impressed with the passion of the players on the team and has been in contact with quarterback Trevor Harris. “I’ve had a few calls with Trevor already,” said Ouellette. 

Ouellette will be bringing to Regina both his talent as well as the “Thor” persona that he has embraced. He brought a Thor hammer up to the stage for the press conference and talked about the backstory behind it.

“So everybody wants to be a superhero, right? And I’ve had a long line of wanting to be the Hulk, I wanted to be Captain America, I wanted to be all these different superheroes. And somebody called me Thor one day, and I’m like, you know what, Thor is a great superhero to try and be. My nephew bought me a Thor hammer from Toys “R” Us, and we were going to Hamilton for the game and I was like, you know what, you can’t be having a hammer in the ‘Hammer’. So I just brought it for a sideline gig, and there was some chipping going on during the game. some stuff said to some of my o-linemen I didn’t appreciate.”

After the Argos scored a touchdown, “our punter John Haggerty had that hammer waiting out for us and I said, yeah, this is coming on the field. The CFL loved it, and the fans loved it, so that’s how the hammer came to life.”

Ouellette will be wearing number 45, realizing that his old number 34 was off the table because of its association in Regina with the legendary running back George Reed. 

“I kind of knew of George from last year and the legend that he was to the league, and how great he was in the community and how much of the community and the league respected him. Now they’ve got awards named after him. So I knew that number was off-limits before I even had a talk with coach Mace here.”

Ouellette wore the number 45 in college in his home state, when he wore the green and white colours of the Ohio Bobcats. “Green and white 45 is very familiar with me, so I decided to be back in that.”

He grew up in a small town in Ohio which he said would basically close down for football game days. Ouellette sees much the same passion in Saskatchewan.

“I kind of feel like it here,” said Ouellette. “I get that feel that it’s football when it’s game day. We don’t do anything else but pregame, get ready for the game. So, excited to bring some excitement to the fans.”

Ouellette was one of several free agent signings this week by the Riders. The others included names such as American offensive lineman Jamarcus Hardrick, American defensive lineman Malik Carney, national linebacker Jordan Herdman-Reed, American middle linebacker Jameer Thurman, and American fullback Clint Ratkovich.