If you’re Jon Cornish, your first instinct is to talk about just about anything else. He’s not being rude; after all, he’s Canadian. He’s just being himself.
Ask him what life has been like since the season ended and you might expect his answer to include details on his workouts with the Chiefs and the Bears, the National Football League combine, KU’s pro day and countless phone calls from 25 NFL team scouts and execs. Not so.
“I’ve had the chance to enjoy fully life as a college student, and it’s been great!” Cornish said. “I don’t know what students [who aren’t football players] do with all this spare time,” he said, laughing.
Although he still works out every day religiously, the hours KU’s single-season rushing record holder used to spend in a film room and on the practice field have been spent, well, being a college student. His football career is almost incidental.
“When I’m hanging out with my friends, we rarely talk about sports,” he said. “We talk about things that interest us and affect us: moral issues, ethical issues, current events, politics...”
Don’t read him wrong, though: Cornish is very eager for the upcoming National Football League draft and the valuable opportunity it presents. Nevertheless, he still knows that there’s much more to life than football.
Cornish explained, “When you join a football team, you automatically get labeled ‘a football player’ with all the stereotypes that come with that. I do hang out with other football players, but I have also gone out of my way to find friends with other interests.”
He was a student senator at KU as well as vice president of his fraternity during a stint in Greek life. Cornish said that from a very early age, he knew he should develop a wide range in interests and a diverse group of friends. When he got older, he knew football provided a means to new places and opportunities.
“I knew I wanted to make myself as well-rounded as I could. Football paid for college, and I’m glad I had that, but if you’re only ‘a football player,’ you’re missing out,” he explained.
Despite his best efforts, though, the conversation eventually turns to football. And as an expected 2nd-day pick, he eagerly looks forward to this weekend – and with good reason. Cornish said he has heard from 25 NFL teams, he’s worked out for two (Chicago and Kansas City) and he said many of them are somewhat surprised when he plays the special teams card.
“I talked to nearly every team at the combine and at pro day (at KU). I told everyone that not only was I willing to play special teams, but I was an excellent special teams player,” he remembered. “A lot of them were interested because not every draft pick is likes to play or is even willing to play special teams.”
Jayhawk fans remember Cornish as a special teams mainstay during his sophomore and junior seasons. His speed, football smarts and nose for the ball made him one of the team’s best special teams players.
He said he’s a little disappointed that he hasn’t heard from the Seattle Seahawks – as close to an NFL home team as the New Westminster, BC, native gets. His speed, intelligence and football savvy, along with two very productive years at runningback, have attracted special attention from a nearby NFL franchise that (a) is in dire need of youth, (b) is looking for a back-up runningback and (c) is implementing a system that puts a premium on intelligence.
“Kansas City is very interested in me,” he said. “They like my willingness to play special teams. They also like my intelligence, but,” Cornish added, quickly, “any NFL system requires a lot of intelligence.”
“I’m excited about that possibility. Getting the chance to play behind (Chiefs star RB) Larry Johnson would be fine, and if that’s what opens the door, great. It’s the team all my friends and everyone here pay attention to. It would be great to play there. I’ve really come to love Kansas,” he said.
If the Jayhawk senior doesn’t make an NFL squad, he says the choice between the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe will be a no-brainer.
“CFL, no question,” he said. “NFL Europe is too restrictive as far as opportunities to make an NFL roster. Canada is a lot more open to it.”
Even though he has options, Cornish sounds like a player determined to make an NFL team.
“I know I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity, and I fully intend to make the most of it,” he said.
Turn the topic away from the draft to the more distant future, though, and once again, football is almost an afterthought. He was asked what he wants to be doing in 15 years, whether his football career extends beyond Sunday or not. Not surprisingly, his answer was not “coaching” or “sportscasting.”
Cornish promptly replied, “In 15 years, I want to be working in a public library. Head librarian”
See, even though football will have his full attention come Sunday, there’s still more to Jon Cornish than football.