April 5, 2024

No more ‘Junior Headtop’ | McInnis Seeks New Nickname in ’24

Photo by Paul Yates

This offseason Justin McInnis, formerly known as ‘Junior Headtop,’ has been busy doing school presentations and being a dad.

Being involved with community programs has been a goal of McInnis. Especially having children of his own, the stage is never too frightening — even in front of a couple of hundred students.

“It’s been my first time getting back out to the community with all the programs. I remember being that kid when the Montreal Alouettes visited my school, I would lose my mind,” McInnis said.

“Being a dad helps. You know how to make a kid laugh or how to get their attention back. But with a couple hundreds of kids at the school, it can get out of control at times. I would say most of the players are pretty good at crowd control and keeping the kids engaged.”

Besides offseason training and school presentations, parenting consumes a lot of his time. One of McInnis’ daughters is trying rugby for the first time, he’s in charge of the pickup duty.

“One day she came home and was like, ‘I’m going to try rugby.’ I’m like, ‘Go for it.” Which is exciting, so I’m packing up the car with a couple of her friends to White Rock,” McInnis added.

Coming off a personal best season in 2023, former jr. headtop Justin McInnis has more in store for the future.

The wide receiver heading into his second season with the Lions earned himself the nickname, ‘Junior Headtop’ at the beginning of 2023. After showing off his ability to haul in big catches mid-air, McInnis thinks it’s time to move on from being a Junior.

With Dom ‘Headtop’ Rhymes returning to Ottawa for the 2024 season McInnis will establish himself as the next jump ball threat after coming off his best CFL season thus far, registering 46 receptions for 690 yards and five touchdowns.

“I’m not kidding. I’ve been thinking about it for the past two weeks. I’ve been graduated from university though. Junior was never my thing because I’m a whole different person. We’re going to have to figure something out,” McInnis said.

“Mr. Headtop is cool. But I’m a different player. I don’t need to be a junior. And he’s not my dad,” McInnis chuckled.

Born in Pierrefonds, Quebec, the former Junior Headtop recalls having Montreal Alouettes school visits growing up. He also faintly remembers his encounter with Lions defensive line coach, John Bowman, when he was a player in Montreal.

But those moments carry over to now, like when McInnis is teaching kids about saving energy and developing healthy habits. Seeing students’ excitement is a special full-circle moment for him.

“I remember going to see Ricky Williams who was playing for Toronto at the Olympic Stadium. I remember S.J. Green, Jamel Richardson, Ben Cahoon, and Anthony Calvillo. Those were the guys I grew up knowing,” McInnis recalled.

Like every kid, the dream was the NFL. Once he was passionate about football, he realized that he must leave Quebec to get into a Division 1 college program.

McInnis left home at the age of sixteen to pursue his dream. First, he was enrolled at a prep school in Atlanta before going to Dodge City Community College in Kansas.

“Football is growing in Canada. I’m going to sound old for saying this but 11 years ago, you didn’t get recruited to go play division one football from a Quebec school, especially with Cegep. I had the NFL on my mind, of course, my immediate thing was that division one scholarship. I got to get my foot in the States somehow,” he added.

Coming off a personal best season in 2023, former jr. headtop Justin McInnis has more in store for the future.

The Arkansas State University product fought hard to get to the position he’s in today. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows like interacting with kids or taking his daughter to rugby practices.

No matter the circumstances McInnis was put under during his time at the prep school, he knew this was still the route he must triumph through to receive scholarship offers.

“Most people don’t even know what I went through. When I left home to the prep school I went to before junior college was just an absolute garbage kind of place. I’m talking about not being fed, not being able to rent a bus for games, junk living apartment in a rundown hotel was a side story not many people knew,” McInnis recalled.

“I didn’t convince my parents to let me leave for the States. I think they just saw my work ethic and how much football meant to me that it was a no-brainer. I’m sure it’s hard for every parent to let go of their child at 16 and put them in the hands of somebody you don’t know. And you only go off on what your child is telling you.”

McInnis took ownership of his decision to leave home, it was a sacrifice he had to endure to proceed to the next phase of college football.

“I had to lie to them to keep myself there. But that was the decision I had to make. I’m not encouraging anyone to lie, but the sacrifice had to be made,” he said.

From then, McInnis shined in junior college action, where he was ranked 41st player in the nation and listed as a 3-star recruit by Rivals and Scout. With offers from Mississippi State, Nevada and more, he chose to spend the following three years with the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

Coming off a personal best season in 2023, former jr. headtop Justin McInnis has more in store for the future.

From 2016 to 2018, McInnis played 38 regular season games at Arkansas State and recorded 120 receptions for 1631 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

McInnis was selected in the first round by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2019. He played three seasons in Riderville before signing with the Lions in February 2023.

The addition of McInnis to the Lions was a crucial part of the explosive passing attack in 2023, McInnis enjoyed every minute of his role and is ready to take another leap in 2024.

“My first three years in the CFL didn’t go as planned. You just keep fighting. Even coming to BC was crazy. Hopefully, we can have another great year.” McInnis said.

“I’m ready to see all the guys again. This past season was the most fun I’ve had in quite some time. This group is special so I’m excited to just laugh like I do when I’m around them. When it comes to football, I’m ready to put the stamp on and solidify myself as the top Canadian receiver in the league.”

The countdown to June and a transition from Junior Headtop is officially on.