SASKATOON — Jenson Stoshak has caught virtually everything thrown his way since joining the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
He did the same thing at Florida Atlantic University — and he has the YouTube video to prove it.
In 2015, Stoshak became an Internet sensation (Click here to watch!) when he caught passes while doing three backflips, one after another. He snared the first pass with his right hand, the second with his left hand (while still holding the first ball in his right hand) and the third with both hands (after tossing away the first two balls).
“That was around the time when everyone was trying to do backflip stuff,” the 23-year-old product of Jacksonville, Fla., said after the Roughriders’ training-camp session Monday at the University of Saskatchewan’s Griffiths Stadium.
“One day after practice at FAU, me and a couple of my buddies were like, ‘Hey, y’all want to try to make (ESPN’s) SportsCenter?’ I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’ So we went to the backup practice facility (and tried).
“(The successful attempt) wasn’t a first-time thing; a lot of people think it was. I did a bunch of them. It was something just to mess around with and it ended up blowing up bigger than I thought it would.”
Stoshak estimated he did “about 20 backflips that day” and was ready to give up before the successful try.
The 6-foot-0, 200-pound receiver doesn’t have a background in gymnastics and admitted he was scared to do backflips before a friend took him to the beach one day to learn. The rest is history.
Stoshak may have landed the backflips, but it’s unlikely the video helped him land a job in pro football.
“I don’t think coaches really care if you can catch a backflip ball or not,” he said with a chuckle. “It was just something fun to do and it ended up getting out bigger than I thought it would.”
Stoshak spent four seasons at Florida Atlantic, recording 131 receptions for 1,881 yards and six touchdowns in 43 games with the Owls. He wasn’t selected in the 2016 NFL draft, but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers.
His time with the Panthers was brief — he didn’t get further than their rookie camp — so he was without a job until the Roughriders called.
In April, Stoshak went to a play-in day staged by the team for free agents in Vero Beach, Fla. His performance there earned him a contract and an invitation to the Roughriders’ mini-camp that same week. His showing there earned him a spot in Saskatchewan’s training camp.
Roughriders head coach-GM Chris Jones said Stoshak’s route-running stood out on play-in day, as did his hands. Both of those skills have been evident throughout training camp as well.
“He does nothing but win (when going up against defensive backs),” Jones said. “When you look at him, he’s not the prototypical guy that we look for. He got to us simply by playing his way.
“He came to play-in day and everywhere we’ve ever tried him out and put him under the gun, he has performed. We have to take notice of a guy who continually wins against our DBs.”
That’s all Stoshak can ask for.
“It feels good to be recognized for your hard work; anyone would say that,” he said when told of Jones’ comments. “At the end of the day, whatever you put on film is who you are. Hopefully I put together some good stuff for everybody.”
During Florida Atlantic’s pro day, Stoshak ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, pumped out 21 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press and had a 33-inch vertical jump.
At the Roughriders’ mini-camp, he consistently got open against man-to-man defenders and found the holes in zone coverages — and he may have dropped as many as two passes over the three-day event.
Getting into Saskatchewan’s playbook at that camp has helped him during training camp, too. Plays that are being installed in Saskatoon were ones that Stoshak and his fellow mini-campers learned in Florida, so that group is slightly ahead of the game.
Stoshak also appears to have moved ahead of other receivers on the depth chart. He has been practising with the No. 1 offence of late — and he stayed there Monday even though one of last season’s starters, Ricky Collins Jr., returned from injury. Collins was moved to the defensive backfield, in part because of injuries to other DBs.
During Saskatchewan’s mock game Saturday, Stoshak tied for the team lead with four receptions and led the receiving corps with 78 yards and 34 yards after the catch.
And, no, he did not snag any of those passes while doing backflips.
“I’m pleased with what I’ve done,” Stoshak said. “I know I’m a good player. I’m not a very cocky player. I’m just confident in what I do and I just put my nose to the grindstone and keep going.”