Saskatchewan Roughriders

Wes Cates - Running Back - 2007-11 - California

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cfl.ca - Jamie Nye - 22-09-2011

Five years ago, Wes Cates had no idea he was about to arrive onto a scene in which he’d have such an impact.

Cates was dealt to the Riders from Calgary just prior to the start of the 2007 season, in hopes that he could be the every-down tailback they were missing.

“When I first found out about it I wasn’t too excited,” admitted Cates.

“I didn’t know too much about the CFL except for the city I was in, which was Calgary. I thought I had a good camp but after evaluations they told me that I was off to Saskatchewan. I was a little frustrated in the beginning but obviously didn’t see the door that had just opened for me.”

Cates absolutely blew that door wide open. In his first game with the Green Riders – against his former team – he took off for 58 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s been climbing the franchises record books ever since.

Last week against Toronto, Cates moved into second on the Roughriders all-time rushing yards list with 4,449, passing Mike Saunders in the process.

 

Wes Cates         California      
  Rushing       Receiving      
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD C Yds Avg Lg TD
2006 Cgy 25 181 7.2 28 2 21 286 13.6 74 1
2007 Ssk 153 866 5.7 38 5 45 452 10.0 40 0
2008 Ssk 216 1,229 5.7 25 12 39 451 11.6 40 2
2009 Ssk 195 932 4.8 37 5 33 336 10.2 32 2
2010 Ssk 203 1,054 5.2 83 15 42 355 8.5 33 1
2011 Ssk 138 680 4.9 32 4 24 185 0.0 16 0
Total 6 930 4,942 5.3 83 43 204 2,065 10.1 74 6

Earlier in the season, Cates also moved past Saunders for seventh all-time on the Roughriders touchdown list with 49, a feat even Cates didn’t foresee achieving.

“Yeah, I guess you could say I didn’t call that one. I was 27 years old that first season and being how the CFL is now, guys don’t really play for team’s too long.”

Saunders is being inducted into the Roughriders Plaza of Honour, the team’s version of the Hall of Fame, later on this season.

An honour that will no doubt be one Cates will experience in years to come.

However, Cates concedes there is no way he’s catching the man who ranks no. 1 on the Roughriders rushing list, George Reed. The Riders legend, who moved back to Regina a few years ago, has influenced Cates throughout ever one of his five seasons with the club.

“It’s great whenever you can talk to a guy who’s been there and done that,” said Cates.

“He can say something when you’re frustrated to kind of keep you calm or give you a little motivation. He knows exactly what you’re going through. You always know that he’s somebody, if you have a question, he’s going to have the answer for you.”

While the Roughriders have brought in running backs over the last few seasons to challenge Cates, he’s been able to fight off the competition.

The reason for Cates’ staying power isn’t necessarily his speed or elusiveness but more so his vision, ball security, blocking and pass catching abilities. Quarterback Darian Durant says Cates is a complete back in every sense of the word.

“He’s basically the heart and soul of our offence. You could see when he didn’t play early on in the season we were missing some things in protection and in getting tough yards. He’s a big part of what we do,” said Durant.

He’s also a big part of Saskatchewan, the city. The last couple of seasons, Cates has lived year-round in Regina and has done several charity and community events across the province.

“When I was in another city I didn’t hear great things about Regina. But moving here you see a lot of those things weren’t true,” said Cates.

“The people are great. You move around town and people have nothing but love for you. It’s got such a nice family feel to it. People have time for each other and they love their football. There’s no better place to play football in Canada or maybe even North America.”

While Cates acknowledges there is no way he is going to come close to catching George Reed, he knows what he’s achieved is something many dream of as a kid.

“At the end of the day the thing you’re going to remember most is the relationships and the bonds you have with players you’ve met along the way,” said Cates.

“But whenever you have hardware to kind of solidify what you’ve done and show you’ve been there and go back to the record books and see your name it definitely gives you a sense of accomplishment.”