Moffat: All of a Sutton, Als have a new starting RB
He has more special teams tackles than touchdowns, but it’s fitting that Tyrell Sutton will make his first CFL start at running back on the same day Troy Smith gets his first start at quarterback.Both Smith and Sutton had moved on from playing careers, or so they thought, until the Alouettes came calling one more time.The cliché’ “overnight success years in the making” comes to mind. Or to borrow a phrase from Tyrell’s twitter handle, success is @AllofaSutton22.Smith Starting?Heading into a crucial Eastern clash with the Tiger-Cats on Sunday, the Alouettes appear set on putting the ball in Troy Smith's hands.» Read More“It came out of the blue,” says Sutton of the call to explore the Canadian Football League. “I had a moment of retirement. I had decided to go into coaching out in California with one of my best friends from college.”“I decided to hang up the cleats and just move on to start the process of getting ready for ‘normal life’. I think they’d been trying to get me here for a couple of years.”Like Smith, who was working back at the Ohio State Athletics Department before deciding on the CFL opportunity, Sutton cut back against the grain of best-laid plans for the rest of his life.Sutton, a former NFL Panther, had won the interest of a certain Carolina season-ticket holder named Popp.He’s already scored his first 2 touchdowns, has been averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and has now unseated Jerome Messam in the Als’ backfield.“I made the decision---it’s one last time I really have nothing left to lose. I’m so grateful that they gave me the opportunity. I don’t know how to thank them enough.”Sutton spent a few months in Santa Monica, California coaching with Brendan Smith, his former college teammate at Northwestern turned high school defensive coordinator. “I was out there trying to get my hands on as many young minds as possible. I have so much knowledge I want to share and being able to mould those young minds into future players – hopefully – and great young men. It was a great opportunity for me. “So I’ve got that in my back pocket, I guess. I was just trying to do whatever to keep my name in the football world.”Sutton first got his name out in high school. He once rushed for a school record 505 yards in a game and set the Ohio record for career high school yardage with 9,426.In college, he was a game shy of matching Emmitt Smith,Arizona Cardinals Jersey, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson as the only freshmen to rush for 1,000 yards in just 7 games. Sutton dodged and crashed through contact en-route to 1,474 (3rd highest in Northwestern school history) and 16 TDs.After rushing for more than 1,000 yards his sophomore season, injuries took their toll in junior and senior years. Still, he headed to the NFL draft with more catches than any previous Wildcat running back. Related Links Smith to start at QB for Alouettes Game Notes: A look at Week 17 Buy: Alouettes vs. Tiger-Cats tickets Undersized and “injury-prone” some scouts claimed. The NFL overlooked the heart. He would make the Panthers as a free agent, having had looks from the Packers and Seahawks as well.Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Tyrell is well versed in the exploits of his current teammate Smith. They would cross paths in the NFL.“We’re both from Ohio so we know about each other’s high school through college all the way to the pros. It’s an honour to be playing by his side.”“I got to witness it first hand as the opposition so I know exactly what he can do. I’m just glad he’s on my team this time.”“He brings a leadership quality and a football mastermind that we can really use...the new coaches with the new playbook...it’s just trying to get everyone to mesh really well, to fight through the inconsistency right now.”Sutton brings another fond NFL memory of a special football friendship to Canada and the timing with starting in a CFL Pink game is added inspiration.“Oh man, getting that first NFL start,” Sutton recalls as the smile widens between the ear flaps on his knit toque he’s pulled on after a practice in cool drizzle. “It was against New Orleans in 2009.”Sutton, only 5’8, 215 was given the choice – play fullback or don’t play at all.“My first block in the NFL – second play – DeAngelo Williams for a 70 yard touchdown run against the Saints. That’s the greatest memory I can get so far.”“We were probably the smallest NFL backfield (Williams is officially listed an inch taller at 5’9). We were eye-to-eye...it was the dreads I think,” Sutton chuckles recalling his time in the huddle with the Panthers’ veteran back he calls “my brother.”The Pink Game will be dedicated to the woman Tyrell calls “one of my surrogate moms.”“DeAngelo Williams’ mom is a survivor of breast cancer, so definitely a shout out to her. DeAngelo deserves a shout out too for bringing breast cancer awareness to the NFL too.““That entire family has been through so much and I love that woman.”“He’s just an outstanding ‘teamer’ and a survivor,” Popp said after drills were done. “These guys are survivors, staying around until they get their shot at their position.”“The great thing about Tyrell – he’s like ‘I’ll do anything. Whatever you want me to do.’ He’s gone from being an NFL guy to our practice roster just to be with us.”“He has been willing. He did what he had to do to survive here. Now he’ll get his chance to start.” Sutton’s tenacious running, blocking and special teams toughness is reminiscent of Avon Cobourne’s arrival in Montreal.“There are guys like that,” marvels Popp. “Chip Cox came to me this week and said ‘coach, I’ll play any special teams you want the rest of the season...just tell me.’ There are guys willing to do anything and everything to win.”“Tyrell’s one of those guys.”