It’s all about consistency for running back Johnny Augustine, who will play a feature role with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this year.
The 28-year-old is coming off a game-high 54-yard rushing performance in last Friday’s preseason tilt with the Edmonton Elks. Augustine’s showing, which included a pair of 17-yard runs, was a step toward what could be a two-headed monster in the backfield this season.
It was Augustine’s lone preseason test as he won’t suit up for the team’s final tune-up against the Saskatchewan Roughriders Tuesday night.
"I worked really hard this offseason, so being able to put that on display in practice and bring it into the game was nice to do," said Augustine. "Obviously it’s a preseason game, but I’m excited for this year."
“I worked really hard this offseason, so being able to put that on display in practice and bring it into the game was nice to do.” – Johnny Augustine
Friday wasn’t the first time Augustine had a standout preseason performance against Edmonton. He rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown against them in 2018, earning a spot on the team where he’s been a fixture ever since.
He rushed for 285 yards last season on 40 carries, highlighted by a 148-yard outing on 23 touches in week 16 against Calgary.
Even after being rewarded with a new contract in February and the departure of Andrew Harris opening up a starting spot in the backfield, he doesn’t see things as a clear picture. Augustine said he’s been approaching football one day at a time since he was seven years old, a mentality that’s helped him persevere after being undrafted.
"Every day is not given, every day is not promised, you have to attack the day every day," he said. "I still approach it as… even if I’m in the No. 1 position, whatever spot I’m in, I don’t take it for granted."
A quick scan through his Instagram posts over the years reveals cupping therapy sessions, a fridge full of healthy pre-prepped meals, pilates and a video of him pressing a 100-pound dumbbell with ease while laying on an exercise ball. The intense training, emphasis on recovery and disciplined diet – which includes working with a nutrition coach – is part of a process that will ensure he’s able to perform from preseason to playoffs.
"I’m not trying to play this game for one (or) two years, I’m trying to play this game for as long as possible," said Augustine. "I’m a big Tom Brady fan and he’s a great example that you can play this game at a high level for a very long time if you do the right things."
“I’m a big Tom Brady fan and he’s a great example that you can play this game at a high level for a very long time if you do the right things.” – Johnny Augustine
While many resources have been invested into his body, the former University of Guelph standout doesn’t skip the basics either.
Augustine and fellow running back Brady Oliveira have been two of the last players off the field during training camp whether the sun is shining down on IG Field or puddles have formed on its green turf. They catch hundreds of balls after practice, pushing each other through competition.
However, one thing they tune out is the chatter about having big shoes to fill.
"At the end of the day we’re doing our assignments," said Augustine. "I don’t think about whose shoes I’m filling, what shoes I’m filling. If I gotta carry the ball, protect my quarterback (or) catch the ball, that’s my job, not trying to create a storyline."
A key factor in Augustine’s return to Winnipeg was the continuity he approaches the game and off-field training with. He praised the team’s coaching staff for putting him in the right position to succeed and spoke highly of offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce, saying playing in his offence is "just a blessing."
There’s a sense of pride in his voice as he talks about what it means for him to play in the city. Augustine said it has become his second home, in contrast to his running mate Oliveira who was born in Winnipeg.
"The support by the fans is amazing, you can’t get that anywhere else," he said. "I’m just blessed and honoured to play for them and represent them day in and day out."