Alabama receiver John Metchie III trying to open doors for Canadians to play in NCAA

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A key cog in a potent Alabama Crimson Tide offence, John Metchie III is trying to open doors for other Canadians to play football at major American universities.

The six-foot, 195-pound sophomore receiver from Brampton, Ont., has 24 catches for 517 yards (21.5-yard average) and three touchdownsthis season for the second-ranked Tide (6-0). Alabama is off this week before facing LSU (2-3) on Nov. 14.

"I wouldn't say I feel the eyes of the country watching me," Metchie said during a videoconferece Wednesday. "But I definitely feel prideful about being from Canada and just being a kid from Canada given the chance to play here at Alabama.

"I just want to show kids from Canada they can really do anything they put their mind to, especially if they want to play football at the highest level. I'm extremely grateful for it and I definitely don't take it for granted."

There's been no shortage of Canadians step up this season in the NCAA ranks, especially at receiver. Freshman Ajou Ajou, of Brooks, Alta., is playing for top-ranked Clemson while Vancouver's Jana Terrell (Virginia), Tennessee's Josh Palmer (Brampton) and Pitt's Jared Wayne (Peterborough, Ont.) are all contributing to their respective programs.

Last year, Chuba Hubbard of Sherwood Park., Alta., ran for over 2,000 yards at Oklahoma State while linebacker Amen Ogbonbemiga, of Calgary, was the school's top defensive player. Both are back in 2020 with the No. 14 Cowboys.

"Personally, I kind of just keep my head down and keep working because I feel like there's still a long ways to go," Metchie said. "Hopefully I can look back and one day and see I made an impact on kids from Canada and what the sport means over there."

Metchie appeared in all of Alabama's games last year as a freshman, registering four catches for 23 yards. He said biding his time on a receiving corps that included returnees DeVonta Smith (team-high 56 catches for 759 yards, eight TDs in 2020) and Jaylen Waddle (25 catches, 557 yards, four TDs this year) and current NFL players Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos) and Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders) was very beneficial.

"It motivated me a lot," Metchie said. "Alabama is one of those places that you come here if you love competition and as everyone saw last year our receiver room was full of competitors.

"That helped me grow a lot. It also helped me see . . . what I could possibly achieve."

Alabama lost the speedy Waddle, a junior, to a season-ending broken ankle in Alabama's 41-17 win over Tennessee on Oct. 24.  Metchie stepped up with seven catches for 155 yards against the Vols but said Tide receivers don't feel any pressure to try and replace Waddle.

"Jaylen is one of those guys that's definitely irreplaceable," Metchie said. "I think as a receiving corps we just have to be ourselves . . . and if we all do that I think we'll be fine."

Tide guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. is a big fan of the team's current receiving depth.

"All of of those guys are capable of doing well," he said. "It makes it easier on us. 

"Those long touchdowns make for shorter drives. You always appreciate the receivers getting open and doing their thing."

Metchie is more than good with getting Alabama's offensive lineman off the field quickly.

"I definitely think that's fair," he said. "The big guys keep me out of the trenches and that's not a place I'd like to be."

Metchie comes by his football prowess honestly. His brother, Royce, is a defensive back with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders after playing collegiately at Guelph but John Metchie said he's close with all three of his older brothers.

"All of my brothers have played an extremely big role in my life," he said. "They've kind of been like my father figures, my role models, everything like that.

"We talk almost every day, pretty much every day. We're extremely close, we keep in contact with every thing."

As for the bye week, Metchie said it's another opportunity for Alabama's offence to improve.

"I think as a whole unit we need to kind of go back to the fundamentals and focus on our craft, especially after losing Waddle," Metchie said. "A guy like that is pretty much one of one so I think it's big for everyone to kind of get back to the basics and hone their craft."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press