He has dreamed about this moment for years. As a child he visualized what it would feel like, look like, and smell like. Come Sunday, New Westminster native Jon Cornish will finally have a chance to make his dream become reality when his Calgary Stampeders face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 102nd Grey Cup championship. Although Cornish owns a Grey Cup ring from 2008, the 30-year old running back never touched the ball during that game so its luster remains somewhat tarnished. But the spotlight will certainly be shining brightly on Cornish this time around as the St. Thomas More grad prepares to perform in front of fans, friends, and family under the dome at BC Place.
Cornish knows all too well that playing in a pressure cooker environment with a championship title on the line can make or break an athlete. That’s why the CFL’s top Canadian has come prepared. Not only has he completed his reps in practice, studied the game film and prepared his body for battle, Cornish is also a big believer in training his brain. He says incorporating yoga and meditation into his routine have given him the ultimate competitive edge.
“I’ve played my best games when I’m in the zone,” said the six-foot, 209 pound Cornish who practices tai chi, yoga and meditation on a daily basis.
The introspective veteran credits these mental exercises with helping him recognize his emotions which allows him to separate them from an undesirable reaction. But it wasn’t always this way. Cornish says he felt the need to add to his mental toolbox following the Stamps disappointing loss to the Edmonton Eskimos during the 2013 Western Conference Final.
“I felt I had a spiritual experience in that game, the way we lost and the way I was absolutely powerless to do anything about it,” said Cornish as he remembered the Eskimos’ resiliency to the cold weather and how they remained focused, while his team kept trying to warm up their hands. “Those things made me realize there is more going on – I declare I’m an atheist, but there is a deeper connection between human beings – and science hasn’t been able to quite explain it.”
His meditation practices have also helped him learn to embrace the unexpected.
“I’m not in control, nobody is in control. Everyone tries to get some measure of control and that is what creates all of their problems,” said Cornish who averaged 7.8 yards per carry in 2014 to lead the league in rushing (1082 yards), despite only playing nine games due to injury.
Cornish has made meditation a permanent part of his life and compares it going to the gym.
“If you go to the gym and life once a week are you going to get that much stronger? No. But if you live it everyday, you will see results quickly.”
Cornish is also quick to note he’s not the first, nor will he be the last, athlete who’s able to take their game to a new mental level. In true Canadian fashion, he gives credit to NHL legend Wayne Gretzky for taking his naturally-gifted ability and simply letting it flow throughout his performance. Come Sunday, Cornish says he’s ready to embrace the challenges that will come his way and will allow them to become part of his game. If all goes according to plan, he could very well be embracing the Grey Cup while envisioning a newer, shinier, and deserved addition to his personal ring collection.