Tyrell Sutton ready to coach Als’ three-headed monster
The Montreal Alouettes first appeared in Tyrell Sutton’s life when he needed them most. After his dream of playing in the NFL came to an end, it was the Als and the CFL that extended his playing career by seven years. Now, two seasons after retiring, the Alouettes have filled the football void in his life again. On Tuesday, the Als unveiled their full coaching staff, and the 36-year-old was named the running backs coach.
He’s thrilled about making a return to the pro game, but he also admitted that life without football wasn’t easy.
“It was a little difficult for me,” Sutton admitted. “I’ve always played football my entire life. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I didn’t prepare for life after football. As you can see, I’m still living it. I tried a number of jobs, and oddly enough, this is the second time the Montreal Alouettes and the CFL have – for dramatic effects – saved my life. The first time they brought me up here when I was rejected from the NFL. Now, again, after trying to do things other than football, it has somehow brought me back into the fold. I’m grateful, I’m happy, and I’m glad to be back home.”
Now that he’s on head coach Jason Maas’ staff, he can focus on sharing his experiences with the running backs the Als have on their roster heading into training camp. Every team’s running backs coach is important, but Sutton’s role will be particularly key because the Als are expected to use their tailbacks a lot in 2023.
And why wouldn’t they?
They have a lot of depth at that position including William Stanback, who was the Most Outstanding Player in the East Division in 2021. The 28-year-old missed all but five games because of a lower-body injury he suffered in the first game of the 2022 season. He will certainly come into training camp with a chip in his shoulder.
“Anybody coming off an injury is always going to be hungry, especially with him having won the rushing title (in 2021). He knows what it takes to have that success,” Sutton said of his former teammate in Montreal.
“I want him to understand what he’s looking at, why he’s looking at it, and have him become a complete back. In my eyes, he won that rushing title on pure talent. That’s not taking anything away from this young man, but I want to enhance his game to a certain level to where he can see things and slow the game down for himself.”
On top of having Stanback, the Als also re-signed Walter Fletcher and they still have Canadian Jeshrun Antwi, who led them in rushing, with 600 yards, in 2022. Each of those three players brings a different style to the table, which makes them valuable in their own way.
“(Stanback) is the leader of the camp,” the Akron, Ohio native said. “What he’s going to bring to the table is experience, and the young guys are going to follow. Then comes (Fletcher), who has his own style and ability, and he’s going to compliment Stanback. Then there’s Antwi, who is the perfect compliment to both of them. He’s literally combining both of their skillsets, and he’s doing it just as well. I think we have a three-headed monster.”
It’s not just the running backs that will be able to run the ball this season. All three of Montreal’s quarterbacks, including projected starter Cody Fajardo, are mobile enough to take off with the rock. Back in 2019, when Fajardo was named a CFL All-Star, he rushed for a career-high 611 yards, which means that opposing defences won’t just be able to key in on the running backs in order to stop the run.
“It makes it a lot more complex,” the Als new running backs coach said. “The defence can’t sit on their heels and expect our quarterback to just throw the ball, they have to be prepared for him to use his legs. It will open up the gates for our running backs to run the ball a whole lot more and to explore different options of getting out into pass routes because he is mobile, and you never know what you cand do with him.”