Where Are They Now?: Roughriders days were ‘best years’ of Kory Sheets’ life

September 19, 2017
Rob Vanstone, Regina Leader-Post

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Kory Sheets still plays a key role in successful drives.

He is an Uber driver.

“It’s such a great business model — get people where they need to be safely,” Sheets says from Land O’ Lakes, Fla. “And they do it for a fair price, instead of hitting you over the head just to go around the block.”

Sheets went around the block a few times in the professional football ranks before and after his time as a Roughrider, with whom he enjoyed his greatest success.

Most notably, Sheets ran for 197 yards — a Grey Cup single-game record — and two touchdowns on Nov. 24, 2013 to help Saskatchewan defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23 on Taylor Field.

But he never played another regular-season game, either in the CFL or NFL, after being named the Grey Cup’s most valuable player.

Sheets parlayed his achievements north of the border into a tryout with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

He looked like a solid bet to crack the Raiders’ regular-season roster before suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during an NFL exhibition game on Aug. 22, 2014.

It was a painful case of déjà vu for Sheets, who had suffered a torn right Achilles tendon with the Miami Dolphins during their 2010 training camp.

He was waived by the Dolphins in 2011 before spending part of that season on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad.

Next stop: Saskatchewan, where he was virtually impossible to stop.

In 2012, Sheets rushed for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns in 18 regular-season games. He followed up in 2013 by rushing for 1,598 yards and 12 majors in 15 games. He subsequently helped Saskatchewan post its first-ever home-field Grey Cup victory.

“I certainly have a lot of memories of the 13 seasons (as the Roughriders’ president-CEO) and Kory played a huge role in creating those memories,” Jim Hopson reflects.

“Our offence had a lot of veteran talent — Darian Durant, Geroy Simon, Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler, Brendon LaBatte, Rob Bagg, et cetera — but many of them were quieter, lead-by-example guys. Kory led with his play but he also brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team.

“Kory’s rushing accomplishments in 2013 are memorable, but I particularly remember his smiles, laughter and teasing of teammates — and having a burger truck come to the stadium after practice so he could buy the offensive linemen burgers after he had 100-plus rushing yards in a game. The Hoggies ate well in 2013.”

The offensive linemen also chewed up opposing defences, helping Sheets post gaudy totals.

“He was just a talented guy,” says LaBatte, who in 2013 was named the CFL’s lineman of the year.

“You look back at what we had back then and the whole mentality of the offence back then. (Running the ball) was the name of the game.

“We used to go to double tight ends. The quote that was told to us from (then-offensive co-ordinator) George Cortez was ‘mass smashes ass,’ and that was the name of the game. We were just going to run the ball all day long.

“Kory had a huge part in it. Every time he got the ball, he was efficient with it. In the first eight games of 2013 when he was consistently over 100 yards, that’s the kind of consistency that every franchise longs to have.”

Sheets longs for those days — “best days of my life,” he reflects — given the benefit of hindsight.

“I loved Regina and Saskatchewan,” he says. “I wish I would have gone left instead of right. Those were the best two years of my life, whether I knew it or not.

“Back then, it was all about moving forward and getting to somewhere bigger or better or whatever you want to call it — just getting to another place where you thought you wanted to be.”

That being Oakland.

Despite overtures from the NFL, Sheets says that he was amenable to returning to Saskatchewan, but the two sides could not agree on finances so he departed as a free agent.

Then came the injury, followed by intensive rehabilitation and, to his chagrin, only nibbles from interested teams.

So it was on to life after football — and some accompanying adversity.

Within a 2 ½-week span in 2016, Sheets endured the deaths of his grandmother and uncle while facing the unavoidable reality that his football career was over.

Now he is focusing on being an Uber driver, establishing an online book-publishing company, and exploring other vocational options.

Some of his time is also spent communicating with Roughriders fans who make contact via his website.

“I still communicate with the fans up there,” Sheets says. “They let me know that they miss me and they still try to tell me to come up there.

“If anybody wants me to come up, I’m open to anything. Just contact me on my website.”

rvanstone@postmedia.com

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