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Cory Watson knows all about responsibility. The second of nine siblings raised by a single mother just outside of Montreal, the new Lions’ wide receiver learned all about the importance of it from an early age. Although not always perfect it proved to be massive dividends as he embarked on his career as a pro football player.
“It had its ups and downs, but all in all it made me the person I am today,” said Watson from his offseason home in Quebec.
“It really helped me in university when I transitioned into one of the leaders. I’m not a very vocal or ‘Ra Ra’ person, but when I was in Edmonton the younger guys would approach me and ask how things are done. I am more of a one-on-one person. For the most part, that’s how I portray my leadership.”
His on-field attributes are just as impressive. A second-round draft pick of the Blue Bombers in 2010, Watson was the club’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian and started in the 99th Grey Cup, a loss to his new team, a year later. He also proved to be a good depth receiver in his three seasons in Edmonton, racking up 102 catches for 1,114 yards and seven touchdowns.
After earning his first ring with the Green and Gold in 2015, he is anxious for another one in orange and feels the club is headed in the right direction under new GM Ed Hervey, whom Watson is now reunited with.
“He’s a real ‘players GM’ and easily approachable,” explained Watson.
“When he gave me a call to be a part of what he’s doing over there, it was a no-brainer. It’s the same with Jarious Jackson and Markus Howell. They have been coaches of mine in Winnipeg ( Howell only) and Edmonton so I am familiar with those guys and the type of scheme they want to run. They all want to win.”
Watson also joins a Canadian receiving corps that features plenty of upside. Shaq Johnson was likely the club’s most improved player on offence last season, while 2017 first round draft pick Daniel Vandervoort is looking to turn heads in his second season.
“The names you mention are all talented guys. I know Shaq is a very speedy receiver and games against us he really stretched the field and hurt us at times. I know Vandervoort had a good year on special teams and can also show those characteristics many Canadian receivers are known for, mainly the ability to fill any role and step up when their number is called.”
And of course, you can’t talk about the Lions’ crop of receivers without mentioning game breakers Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham. You can safely say Watson is going to enjoy not being on the opposite sideline when those two are making plays.
“Being on the other side these last few years, sometimes I had to just close my eyes and hope for the best and that something else might happen and they don’t make a big play,” said the newcomer.
“It’s good to join that duo. Whenever the ball is in the air, chances are something good is going to happen.”
Watson spent the first eight years of his life in Jamaica, where he admits the thought of a career in any sport rarely crossed his mind.
“My mother always made sure I was keeping up with my studies,” recalled Watson. “I do remember running around barefoot, enjoying the island life. The winter was a little warmer there than what I am used to now.”
Despite the quality of life, his mother Ann-Marie Spence made the tough decision to move them to the colder confines of Eastern Canada.
“Her father and brother were already there so she decided to move us all there for a better life. It not only helped me discover football, but my other siblings were able to find their own opportunities as well.”
It was his uncle Dave Spence who introduced the young Watson to football at the age of 12. Spence played at Idaho State before a stint on the practice roster in Saskatchewan. He was also Watson’s coach at Concordia University where the youngster was a second team all CIS Canadian in his senior season.
“When I arrived in Canada he was working toward getting his scholarship down south,” said Watson.
“He was a big influence in me becoming a receiver and climbing the professional ladder.”
Nine years into his CFL career, it is safe to say that influence paid off. Now he can’t wait for the real fun to begin at Hillside Stadium on May 20th.
“I’m getting a little antsy in the training room,” laughed Watson.
“You can never wait to strap on the pads and shoulder pads. I can feel the rubber in my cleats and smell football in the air. I can’t wait to get outside and be around the guys.”