By Wayne Witkowski
Ross Scheuerman is living the American dream of every young star to play professional football, although it’s not on American soil right now.
After playing on the practice fields for three different National Football League (NFL) teams the past two seasons, the former Allentown High School and Lafayette College record-setting running back was in uniform for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their opener June 23 at the Toronto Argonauts’ new Canadian Football League (CFL) Stadium.
Scheuerman did not carry the ball, but he made a tackle on special teams.
It’s a different style of football from what he grew up with: 12 players on a side, all skill players except the quarterback allowed to be in motion before the snap and three downs allowed per series instead of four.
“It’s good, a different game here. I’m just happy to be playing football,” said Scheuerman, who signed with the Tiger-Cats June 2 and got in three weeks of practice and two scrimmages before the opener.
Scheuerman signed with Hamilton after being released in early May right after the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, who had signed him as a free agent back in January under new head coach Doug Pederson.
“Blessed with another opportunity! Excited to get things going with the Philadelphia Eagles!” Scheuerman tweeted in early January.
Scheuerman had finished this past NFL season with the Green Bay Packers as the No. 4 running back on the depth chart and a practice team player after signing with five games left in the regular season with the Packers, who were undermanned in the backfield after they cut one player for a team rule violation. Scheuerman was released after the Packers lost in the playoffs but signed with the Eagles at the end of January.
Scheuerman also had worked out with the Eagles in early 2015 but was not signed. He did sign a free agent contract this time around for his four-month stint.
Scheuerman began his pro career signing as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. During preseason camp, he suffered an Achilles tendon injury that led to him getting cut by the team shortly afterward, just before the opening of the season. Scheuerman did not have enough time to latch onto another team for the 2014 season.
Although he was released by the Eagles in May and not near the end of preseason like he was with the Steelers, it still left him with little time to join another team.
“I did not want to miss another season,” Scheuerman said. “Everyone is trying to fill rosters and when I got released by the Eagles, it was not a great time not be on an NFL team.”
Scheuerman made the most of his new opportunity.
“Camp [with the Tiger-Cats] went well, obviously well enough for the coaches to keep me around,” Scheuerman said.
He has been projected in the past also as a wide receiver, where he excelled in catching the ball in college, and as a special teams player, where he saw action against Toronto in a game that drew about 25,000 fans at its new BMO Field.
The No. 3 all-time rusher in Lafayette annals with 3,500 yards, Scheuerman also returned kicks on a team ranked No. 4 nationally in that category at one point. The 6-foot, 204-pound Scheuerman impressed after his college career at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in the early summer of 2014, when he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash and measured 10 feet 1 inch in the broad jump.
“Football is huge here with a lot of great players, a lot from the NFL for many years,” Scheuerman said.
He hopes to eventually show well enough as a backup running back to get another crack at a roster spot on an NFL team.
According to Lance Zierlein on NFL.com, Scheduerman “has a combination of fluid hips and stop-start foot quickness. Can make sudden jump-stop with hard plant-and-go cut tied to it. Plays with suddenness and quick-twitch. Has adequate vision and able to hit it between tackles with decisiveness and good burst when hole materializes suddenly. Well-rounded talent. Can catch it and was a part-time kick returner as well.”
The scouting assessment listed his lean size and upper-body strength as concerns.
The Tiger-Cats are in the four-team CFL East Division along with Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, British Columbia and Saskatchewan make up the West.
Hamilton’s opener, televised on ESPNews, was a rematch of its Grey Cup playoffs opener when it won the Eastern Division and beat Toronto on the last play of the game. Hamilton won the last of its 15 Grey Cups in 1999.
Although starting quarterback Zach Collaros is injured and expected to be out another six to eight weeks for Hamilton, Jeremiah Masoli stepped in and completed 27 of 37 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns, including 15 straight completions against Toronto.
No one rushed for more than 48 yard against Toronto, so Scheuerman hopes to get some handoffs in the next game July 1 against British Columbia at Hamilton.