Q&A: Former Wildcat Tyrell Sutton discusses Canadian Football League career


Courtesy of the Daily Northwestern Archives/ Dan Fletcher

Tyrell Sutton (right) drives past an Indiana player during a 21-19 loss in 2008. The former Wildcat speaks about his time in the Canadian Football League.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor

From 2005 to 2008, Montreal Alouettes running back Tyrell Sutton was a reliable presence in the Northwestern backfield, racking up 3,886 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns, both of which remain third in Wildcats history. He spoke to The Daily about his college years, his career in the Canadian Football League (where he won the rushing title in 2015), and his thoughts on NU’s performance thus far this season.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: It’s now been 15 years since your first season at Northwestern when you were named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year. What are your memories of that season looking back?

Sutton: I remember we had a very mature, very explosive team. We may not have looked it on the defensive side, but on the offensive side, we were putting up points left and right. We underachieved as a team that year — we should’ve been a lot better record-wise than we were. We were just playing some ball back then. I was just trying to follow the lead of quarterback Brett Basanez and wide receiver Mark Philmore and those older-generational guys that made Northwestern turn that corner.

The Daily: What were the biggest adjustments for you transitioning from living in the United States and playing American football to living in Canada and playing in the CFL back in 2013?

Sutton: It’s pretty chill up here, a multicultural place where most of the people get along. When I was in the States, there was a kind of hustle and bustle, you need to work all the time and get money. But here, they slow it down a little bit, just enough for you to enjoy your life, enjoy your personal time, and enjoy your family.

The Daily: How did you first learn the CFL intended to cancel its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what was your reaction?

Sutton: We heard from our union up here, and the CFL sent out a memo regarding the cancellation of the season. Like most fans — like most players — of course we were shocked and upset by it, but through all that darkness came me being able to spend time with my family. I’ve been married for a year, I just had my baby, so everything turned out to be great in that sense.

The Daily: What are your hopes for the upcoming season, both personally and for the CFL?

Sutton: I hope we can return to a bit of normalcy. I know the money won’t be the same, I know some guys are gonna retire, but I just want the fans and all the players to know hopefully that the CFL will be around. It’s been around for a long time, and we have to support the cause. We have to give people a chance to work out their emotions, to work out their feelings, to be connected with one another. Sports have been cancelled in Canada, but Canadian football, it’s a longstanding tradition of 150 years. So I hope we can bring back that tradition, and return to some kind of normalcy.

The Daily: How do you think the Cats have looked so far in 2020?

Sutton: It’s looking good. I know they had a couple players opt out, and I know they got a very late start to the season. But they look good, they look pretty energized, and the new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian looks really good. Their supporting cast is doing great, not having the quarterback Peyton Ramsey trying to do too much, and it goes back to the old tradition of trying to wear them down in the fourth quarter. They have a great group of young leaders over there, and Coach Fitz is doing a great job of recruiting and a great job of keeping NU’s name prominent — bigger and better than it ever has been.

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Twitter: @pandres2001

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