Winnipeg – Before Sunday’s CFL East Division final, running back Kienan LaFrance was a backup with the Ottawa RedBlacks. A second year sixth round draft pick from the University of Manitoba, LaFrance had carved out a spot on Ottawa’s special teams and was a capable replacement should the starting running back need replacing. Not in his wildest imagination would he be the leading rusher, not to mention the star of Ottawa’s East final win over the Edmonton Eskimos. But when Mossis Madu went down with an injury in the early stages of Sunday’s game, LaFrance was pressed into service. To say he delivered would be a gross understatement. The Winnipeg native turned in a sensational performance, rushing for 157 yards thus allowing RedBlacks quarterback Henry Burris to run the kind of balanced offence that helped produce the Ottawa victory.
LaFrance said it was all a dream come true. “I mean, it’s been exciting the last few days. Just knowing we are going back to the Grey Cup is really exciting, the whole process of just trying to let it soak in, talking to the family, getting all the congratulations, it’s been exciting. Now that we are going to be settling in a little bit, getting back to practice, it’s going to be a little bit more focused on the game.”
LaFrance gave credit to his Winnipeg workout partners for preparing him to succeed. “I have a great support system in Winnipeg, I’m a member of elite performance gym. There has been a ton of pro athletes in and out of there. Guys like Obby Khan, Doug Brown and Andrew Harris, guys we have built a group around. They have all kind of shaped who I am.” LaFrance noted one more person who has played a key role in his maturity as an athlete. “I wasn’t always taking football as seriously as I am now. My transition from high school to the Rifles and the Bisons is when things kicked off. If I had to choose one person, it’s my mother. She has always shown me the ropes, hard work and dedication.”
The 25-year old LaFrance says his phone has blown up since Sunday’s game. “Yeh, a little bit. Tons of family and friends congratulating me. I’m taking it with a grain of salt because I would rather see and hear the texts next week. Definitely exciting times for me, this is a good moment, I’m just trying to accept it, live it up and spend it with my family because these are the memories I’m going to look back on.”
As good as LaFrance was against the Eskimos, there is no guarantee he will start or even get much playing time against Calgary in Sunday’s Grey Cup game. Madu won’t be healthy enough to play, but the RedBlacks might turn to University of Montana product Travon Van as their primary tailback on Sunday. Either way, LaFrance had a moment in the 2016 Eastern Final that nobody can take away from him and that he can always look back on with great pride and satisfaction.