West Central Online was very in tune with the beginning of Kerrobert born Kayden Johnson’s Canadian Football League career with the BC Lions, after he was drafted in the seventh round, 58th overall back in 2020. The first season of his career was lost to the pandemic; and the second perhaps to a west central online jinx?
The story title above was actually a reversal of fortunes, as Johnson got back into gear with the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton team and gained some invaluable experience, all while it turned out the young man was awaiting some good news out of an Olympic Centre over in Calgary after all.
It wasn’t a call to Beijing, but rather one back to the CFL.
Check out another story about Johnson’s journey from the university stage to the draft board at the bottom of the article, while along the way reading more about the recent news as Johnson recently confirmed a three-year contract with the Calgary Stampeders back on January 12th, and is sitting on the sidelines at home in Canada for his first Olympics as a member of the national bobsleigh teams reserves; beaming the already decorated local right back into the west central (and soon to be national) spotlight.
Even though Johnson was understandably not able to crack the roster for this year's Olympics, he is surely going to be a big part of Canada’s marketing campaign to showcase the countries best under the radar athletes, and hopefully inspire future Olympic dreams.
Johnson shared some details about the recent work he has done for currently airing commercials with RBC, giving a background on their amazing athlete programs that have helped Olympic hopefuls like Johnson thrive.
“We shot a commercial together to be aired during the Olympics, just showing my background in like football, bobsleigh, track, and in the weight room. It’s pretty sweet to see on TV,” said Johnson, who noted his now various obligations as an RBC Olympian with the new contract, “I will do different speeches throughout Canada with the two-year contract, so that helps me with my public speaking as well as just allowing me to get a broader reach across the country.”
Johnson made the list of 55 people that represent Olympic veterans and hopefuls alike, as the Kerrobert natives name on the RBC Olympians roster comes just above another great Saskatchewan athlete in para-cyclist Keely Shaw from Midale; and then the last name coming from the province is a winter games athlete already on the podium in Beijing, mega fan-favourite Mark McMorris out of Regina.
One idea can change everything. #rbctrainingground gave me the opportunity to use my athleticism in a new sport and pursue Olympic dreams.— Kayden Johnson (@jamrockjohnson) January 25, 2022
Registration is now open at https://t.co/fHsAXNZjBZ#ideashappenhere #rbcolympian pic.twitter.com/V2W8jKDRyS
Check out @jamrockjohnson on Twitter for more
He should be honoured to be included on such a great list of athletes, and Johnson will likely look forward to the work he can do to build on all of the other traits an Olympian needs to possess over the years to come.
And sure, lots of things can go into one's character, but an athlete's physical resume has to stay just as impressive if they want to compete at the highest level. They must always have a higher level to reach. That has always been Johnson’s mentality, and he is finally ready to kickstart his football career once again.
“For all we know no one has waited for their CFL debut longer than Kayden Johnson, but at the same time, perhaps nobody is more prepared for their first CFL season considering the circumstances.”
Johnson obviously managed to stay busy after getting cut, as the speculation that he would land on his feet nicely was confirmed quickly with his opportunity to remain out west and take part in more bobsled training ahead of his first eventual real competition in Team Canada’s pre-cursor to the Olympics.
More will come on the current Beijing bobsled team, as current CFL free agent and 2021 Roughrider Jay Dearborn represents a tie to our local athlete in one of the select Canadian football players awarded the chance to compete with the national program in 2022.
Because Johnson’s raw profile as a bobsledder has him on track for the 2026 Olympics, no opportunity ever really existed for the now 26-year-old to make this year's team. He gave his best effort however, and chances are Johnson had some extra effort to give after being cut in football by BC; especially when he feels he never received a fair shot.
Standing out in a group of new players had to be tough enough on the first day of training camp, but last year's CFL camps represented double the crop of prospects, with two drafts worth of CFL talent present thanks to the pandemic. Still, he had to be one of the standouts on coaches list headed in, and even on the field with his blazing profile as a bobsledder and summer-games hurdle competitor in the mix as well.
All in all, after a sun-soaked weekend of football, Johnson was included in the final round of cuts.
Again, the move worked out fine, but Johnson is more than ready to get back between the lines as he relayed his belief as to why he felt he never received a proper chance to succeed with the Lions. An uncharacteristic first day position change to full back/tight end shook the prospect running back’s perspective when he suited up for BC’s camp back in July. Thinking about his explosive nature being listed at a blocking position certainly came as a shock, but Johnson still saddled up and paid his training camp dues with just a few less touches than expected.
“I did all this training as a running back, and they tell me I'm going to switch to tight end?” he shared, “So that was quite the learning curve, but I still balled out during training camp. During last cuts they told me they just didn’t have time to develop me as a tight end.”
Getting cut from the Lions is ultimately what pushed Johnson to a great year of winter games experience, and again the situation worked itself out as the Stampeders came calling to begin the new year with a development style contract. Calgary couldn’t be a worse location for Roughrider fans connected to the local star, but the southern Alberta capital represents a great chance for Johnson to chase each one of his dreams adjacently.
The aforementioned Beijing athlete Dearborn who is a teammate of Johnson’s at the sliding centre and current CFL free agent, could hypothetically join him in the Stampeders locker room as well thanks to his training connection to Calgary, and his strong understanding with the teams Head Coach Dave Dickenson about how to balance seeking out professional football, as well as Olympic dreams.
Johnson shared this short anecdote when speaking about Dearborn, as his latest coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders Craig Dickenson likely carries the same values as his brother Dave in letting Dearborn ship off to train in Calgary whenever time became available over the past season.
“Talking with Jay Dearborn this year, during his bye weeks he would go to Calgary to do some bulk training, and then at the end of the season he came to Lake Placid, got in in some warm up meets, and then went to Europe with the team. It's a cool process how both sports are respecting one another and just giving maximal opportunity to the athletes.”
It is truly hard not to scoff (and maybe laugh) at the fact that Johnson is still awaiting his CFL debut this far removed from draft day, and how much confidence our publication had in him prior to the 2021 CFL season. That guilt was exacerbated in the writer’s chair by a great problem to have in following Saskatchewan Roughrider standout rookie Logan Ferland during his breakout season as a rookie.
With that being said Johnson’s body of work is going to be what does the talking for him for the next little while, with another CFL opportunity eagerly awaiting his football deprived legs. Johnson noted former York teammates in Luther Hakunavanhu and Colton Hunchak as big reasons for his move to Calgary, as they likely got in Coach Dickenson’s ear about the potential Johnson could bring.
Johnson even divulged that his now coach Dickenson had in fact heard about Johnson’s Olympic exploits beforehand, and did everything he could to welcome the talented athlete in with open arms. Johnson even confirmed he will get a chance to meet face-to-face with the team’s starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell prior to the season, and he should be more than excited to show everyone in red his extra toughness and grit gained in BC, paired with what he can do when the ball is actually in his hands for a change.
The path that got him here likely has him seeing red when he hits the field, and Dave Dickenson and company are going to try and be the first ones to give the Olympic hopeful a shot once again on the gridiron.