The 2021 calendar year has been a big one for the Canadian Football League. After missing out on a season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the CFL returned to play on August 5th for the first time since the 2019 Grey Cup in November of 2019 and it has been a year full of surprises. A lot of the surprises have come in the standings and the performances of players league-wide. Seeing the Edmonton Elks and B.C Lions struggle is one of the biggest surprises that has shocked the league, but another surprise, and a good surprise this season has also come from the success we’ve seen from the Canadian skill position players.
In 2019, the CFL saw Andrew Harris, Nic Demski, Lemar Durant, Shaquille Johnson, Juwan Brescasin, Sean Thomas Erlington, Tevaun Smith, Hergy Mayala and more making plays as Canadians on the offensive side of the ball as well as Henoc Muamba, Cory Greenwood, Cameron Judge, Kwaku Boateng, Tunde Adeleke and Royce Metchie on CFL defences making plays, but the list has since grown. On the list this year of Canadian playmakers is Toronto Argonauts receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. Gittens Jr, a Guyana-born, Ottawa, Ontario-raised 5-foot-11, 191 pound receiver spent the 2019 CFL season with the Argonauts after being drafted by the organization in the 3rd round of the 2019 CFL Draft, but in the 13 games he played in 2019 he was able to make just one catch for 10 yards. He added 17 touches on special teams for 250 return yards, but his role with the team was very minimal. This season though, Gittens has found himself in a primary role on the Toronto Argonauts offence. Alongside receivers Ricky Collins Jr, Davis Daniels and Eric Rogers, Gittens has caught 50 of 64 targets for 605 yards and 4 touchdowns. The season started off with a bang for Gittens, catching his first career touchdown against the Calgary Stampeders in his season opener and has since had 2 100 yard performances and caught a touchdown in each of the last two games played, the latest coming in a Toronto win over the Hamilton Tiger Cats which sealed the Argonauts spot at first place in the east for the playoffs.
With just one game remaining on the season, and the playoffs right around the corner, expect to see a lot more plays from Kurleigh Gittens Jr, because this is not something new for him. Gittens Jr has found himself making plays at every level he’s played at, and has worked his way up to where he is today as a top target for Argo quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. In high school at Sir Wilfred Laurier in Orleans, Ontario and playing city football with the Cumberland Panthers Gittens Jr was always one of the best players on the field at all times. Thanks to the work he put in with Victor Tedondo’s Gridiron Academy in Ottawa, that transitioned into success at the University level with Wilfred Laurier where he had over 3,000 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns (including playoffs) during his time there, even winning the OUA MVP award in 2017.
Gittens is among other Canadian receivers Jevon Cottoy, Nic Demski, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Brayden Lenius, Nate Behar and Mike Jones this season that are making plays, and should be talked about more as a future star in the CFL, being just 24 years old in his breakout season.