He is the most interesting man in Canadian football. On the field, running back Jon Cornish of the Calgary Stampeders has been honoured as the CFL's top Canadian three years in a row. Off the field, he's equally intriguing. Raised by two moms and educated in psychology at the University of Kansas, Cornish is a must-follow commentator on Twitter, an online gaming guru and a man who does multiple acts of charity. On top of that, he has already begun his after-football career working with TD Canada Trust. He found time before Calgary's first preseason game to talk with Allan Maki.
If you were the commissioner of the Canadian Football League, what would you address?
I would do something about the rules and hitting with your helmet. It's a serious issue. I mean, do you really want your players dying? I don't think it reflects well on leagues when players are having severe mental illness. I've had two hits to the head and neither one had any concussion symptoms. It was that I was almost decapitated. My neck was not in the position where I could play football. … If I were the commissioner, I'd have some say in player safety. I really don't believe player safety is addressed too often. Does it have to take something bad to make things happen? Normally, it does. Most people prefer the status quo until the status quo doesn't work anymore.
You've spoken openly about being raised by your mom Margaret and her wife Andrea Mann. How has that been received by your peers?
In our locker room, because of certain words that people use, it's sort of known that I'll say something. And honestly, attitudes have changed a lot. But does it still happen during a game? Yeah … and no. I don't think teams want to anger me.
Are you still pursuing a post-football career in finance?
It's a plan that has been in motion a long time – three years. I had a sit-down interview with TSN and I said I'd like to be a financial analyst. I think I'm almost there. I've been taking more and more qualification exams. I could maybe call myself a broker but I won't be a stock broker; maybe I'll be in sales and trades. In the world of finance, there are a lot of different things you can do. And a lot of people are like, 'Oh, your psychology degree. What's that going to do for you in finance?' Those are people who don't understand any of the ideas behind behavioural economics. Now, more and more people are like, 'Oh, psychology is really good.'
What's your online game of choice these days?
I'm a hard-core gamer. I've been that way since I was three or four years old and playing on a PC. … In college, I would play in game tournaments around Kansas. I'd play FPS – first-person shooter – in very, very fast reaction time. When people say FPS nowadays, they normally think Counter-Strike. Counter-Strike is a very, very slow game. I played more twitch-based games in tournaments and we [as a team] were pretty good. I'm a more strategic kind of gamer but I also liked RPG [role playing games]. So in World of Warcraft guild, you're telling 25 people what to do when killing a monster. For me, that was like the ultimate experience in gaming. So, I set up this guild and we ended up being the No. 1 daytime raiding guild in the world. Why daytime? Because that was when we could play since [some team members] were in different places around the world.
What's on your charity work agenda?
I recently got involved with Wood's Homes and they've been around Calgary a very long time. They work with mental illness in kids and adolescents. I knew when I was volunteering at the Children's Hospital I had a few opportunities to hang out in their mental-health ward. Coming from my psych bachelor's degree, the brain has always interested me. Mental illness doesn't have to be you have something wrong with your brain. It could be your family situation is really messed up and it messes you up. So I try to help by doing what I can to raise money.
This interview has been edited and condensed.