May 28, 2024

Day 17: Letcher Jr. ready to have All-Star season in 2024

James Letcher Jr. (89), Photo: Pascal Ratthe

When James Letcher Jr. arrived at Alouettes training camp last year, he had no idea what he was walking into. He was new to the league and was unfamiliar with the rules and the width and length of the field.

Despite arriving after the start of camp in 2023, he still managed to suit up in the preseason, and he performed well enough to earn a spot on the practice squad. He waited patiently for his opportunity, and it finally came late in the season when kick-returner Chandler Worthy went down to injury.

“It felt like it might never come,” Letcher Jr. admitted. “I have to give props to Chandler Worthy. He was a big mentor to me last year. He got me ready when my time came. Patience is crazy and good things come to those who wait. I waited and waited, and my time came, and I did what I always do, just play ball.”

He finally made his Alouettes debut on Sep. 30 in Ottawa, and he never came out of the lineup again. Over the final four games of the regular season, Letcher Jr. returned a missed field goal for a 125-yard touchdown in Edmonton, and he scored on a 99-yard punt return in the season finale against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But the most important return of his career came in the East Division Final in Toronto when he brought a kickoff back 105 yards for a major in the fourth quarter. That play buried the Argos and sent the Alouettes to the Grey Cup.

“That was a big stage for our team and that’s what we needed,” he said of the touchdown he scored in the playoffs. “We needed a little boost after (Toronto) scored. In the limited number of games, I’ve played in, that was the biggest play I’ve made so far.

“Every time I touch the ball, I feel like I can score. That time, they (expletive) up. They made a mistake kicking to me in that situation. Everybody blocked it up so well. It was probably one of the easiest returns I’ve ever had.”

Now that he has some CFL experience under his belt, Letcher Jr. is looking to do even more on the field. It’ll be interesting to see what the 24-year-old can do over the course of an 18-game season.

“I want to be the special teams player of the year (this year),” the Kansas native said. “I don’t think the record is that much as far as (return) touchdowns…I definitely want to break that if I can. Hopefully I can get all that done this year.”

It’s also been interesting to watch Letcher Jr. play receiver throughout training camp. Although he’s only 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, he continues to find a way to make plays on offence in practice.

“I started playing receiver during my freshman year in college at Washburn in 2017,” he said. “I played running back in high school and switched to receiver in college. Returning is my thing, but I can always do a little more. As of right now, I want to say I’m a backup just making sure nobody gets hurt, but if my time comes, it comes.

“I can do the same thing at receiver that I can do at returner. I’ll score touchdowns and make big plays…If I get the ball in open space, good luck.”

Roster notes:

On Tuesday, the Alouettes announced that they had released running back Mike Weber Jr., who played in last Saturday’s preseason game against the Toronto Argonauts. That leaves Walter Fletcher, Jeshrun Antwi, Sean Thomas Erlington, Stevie Scott III, and Michael Herzog as the only backs remaining on the roster.