Welcome home Johnny
Johnny Augustine’s day with the Grey Cup included a must-stop at Notre Dame.
The 2021 CFL champion with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was at the Welland high school Thursday morning to share the historic trophy with former coaches, teachers and members of the Notre Dame senior football team.
“I have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time because I remember when Chris Van Zeyl did it. I remember how special that was and I wanted to do it as well,” the 28-year-old running back said.
Augustine described the Notre Dame visit as humbling.
“I wanted to do it in 2019 and then the pandemic hit,” he said. “Even though the world is upside down, I still wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder felt it was important to do so.
“They helped me out in every way that I could have imagined because I came from Florida when I was 17,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms and I am very close with (senior head coach Tim) Bisci. It is not just about football. It is about the community and how they guided me.”
That early guidance has stayed with Augustine forever.
“No one can ever take that away and when I knew I was getting the cup, my priority was coming back here.”
He has many fond memories of Notre Dame.
“My first year was a great experience, going from playing football in the States and then coming here. I played with some great guys and I will never forget that experience and the camaraderie. There are a lot of memories I am forgetting but that first year was amazing.”
Bisci has great memories of Augustine’s time with the Irish.
“He was the hardest-working kid that we ever had, without a doubt. It was getting to the point where the kid was getting up at 5 0’clock in the morning, riding his bike to go to the YMCA to work out. Then he would come to school and he would be eating all day and working out. Then he would go home and run. That was his day and it got to the point where his dad called me up and wanted to know what he was doing. His dad was concerned because he was never home but that what he was doing. He had nothing to worry about because he was a great kid.”
Augustine laughed when remembering those days.
“I know my father came down here and said, ‘What the heck is he doing?’ but I wasn’t doing anything bad. I was just training extra early.”
He would go to the gym prior to coming to school.
“When I got to school, my first class was weight training so I would work out again. My second class was cooking so I would cook my meals and then there was some schooling in there too,” he said, with a laugh. “That instilled who I am today and I still live by that. I try to get better every single day.”
When Augustine left Notre Dame, he was a much different player.
“When we first saw him we wondered if he was the real deal. We have had other kids come and they were never as dominant as he was. He just worked out and worked out and it was amazing to watch him transform,” Bisci said. “By 12B, he was unbelievable. We weren’t very good and he was just really good.”
There was no secret to his success.
“I believe in hard work, dedication and heart and I have always lived by those words because they will get you far in life,” Augustine said. “Without those mottos, I don’t think I would be where I am. It is not an easy process.”
His day with the Cup included stops with: his godkids; Notre Dame; with Neil Lumsden, his running back coach at the University Of Guelph and a long-time mentor; other close family members and friends; and, a final stop with his high school buddies.
A Grey Cup visit to Notre Dame is a regular occurrence at the school.
“We have been lucky,” Bisci said. “Chris Van Zeyl brought it twice and if we didn’t have COVID, Johnny would have had it here two years ago. Technically, we could have had it here four times in the last 10 years.”
And add in the two Grey Cups visits with Sandy Annunziata, it would be six times in the past 20 years.
The cup was delivered to Augustine by Riley Marra, the Blue Bombers’ senior manager of digital media. He flew into Toronto on Tuesday and handed the trophy over to a player in Toronto Wednesday.
“Over the next two weeks or so, I will be in Ontario, New Brunswick before finishing in Montreal,” he said.
Marra admits to a little paranoia whenever he is in possession of the Cup.
“The first night I had it at my house I was pretty nervous about it. And when I drove from Toronto at 6 a.m. to get here, I always make sure about lane changes but now that I had cargo in the back, I was a little more cautious about it.”