Canadian John Metchie III has certainly taken long journey to NCAA championship game

·5 min read

It has been a long journey to the U.S. college football championship game for Canadian receiver John Metchie III.

Born in Taiwan, Metchie III moved to Ghana at a young age and grew up in Brampton, Ont., before heading to the U.S. to attend high school. On Monday night, Metchie III will look to help the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes in the FBS national championship contest in Miami.

Metchie III said the long and winding road he took to Alabama has helped shape him into the player — and person — he is today.

"That has taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable just because I've never been in one place for an extremely long amount of time," the sophomore told reporters Wednesday during a videoconference. "It's always a new environment, which can be uncomfortable for a lot of people but it's kind of taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that helps a lot in sport and in life."

Having the support of family — particularly his mother and three older brothers — and friends back home has certainly helped Metchie III deal with the various challenges he's faced along the way. The Alabama receiver certainly comes by his football prowess honestly as one brother, Royce, is a defensive back with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders while the other two also played collegiately in Canada.

"The relationships I have with all my brothers and close friends back in Brampton and back home mean everything to me," Metchie III said. "They're the reason why I am the way I am.

"They've helped me with everything and continue to be there for me unconditionally."

With the COVID-19 pandemic having forced both the CFL and U Sports to cancel their 2020 seasons, the country's football focus has shifted south of the border, where Metchie III and many other Canadians have garnered plenty of attention. The six-foot-one, 195-pound sophomore has registered 47 catches for 835 yards (17.8-yard average) and six TDs in his first full season as a starter with Alabama (12-0), second on the squad behind DeVonta Smith (105 catches, 1,641 yards, 20 TDs), who Tuesday night became the first receiver since 1991 to win the Heisman Trophy as U.S. college football's top player.

Alabama's quest to earn head coach Nick Saban a sixth national title at the school might have to wait as COVID-19 cases could force the championship game to be rescheduled for Jan. 18. If that happens, though, Metchie III said it won't dramatically impact the Tide's preparation.

"I wouldn't say it's too difficult," he said. "I think we just focus on what we have to do to prepare for the game.

"Whenever that is . . . I know we'll be ready and well prepared to play."

Alabama remains a 7.5-point favourite over the Buckeyes (7-0), who last won the national championship in 2014. Whenever the contest is played, it could be an offensive shootout as both teams are averaging over 40 points per game.

"I don't really look at individual matchups a lot but I do look at their defences and their personnel of who we're going to play," Metchie III said. "Their DBs are really long, lengthy, good in coverage.

"I think just on my part being prepared, being prepared to face whoever and win my box."

Metchie III appeared in all of Alabama's games last year as a freshman, registering four catches for 23 yards. The Tide's '19 receiving corps included Smith and Jaylen Waddle (25 catches, 557 yards, four TDs this year before injury) and current NFL players Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos) and Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders).

"He's got this loaded receiver room year in and year out and so some of the names get glossed over," said redshirt senior tight end Miller Forristall. "Metchie is a guy this year who's put his head down and gone to work all summer.

"I'd see him at a field here or there just working his butt off trying to find a place in this offence and I really thing he has. He's fun and energetic to be around, a guy with a lot of energy and a smile on his face. He's fun to have on the offence This John Metchie guy is going to be pretty solid."

Smith, also a senior, feels Metchie III's familiarity with the culture at Alabama has benefited him tremendously this season.

"I believe he's just got more comfortable with being around here," Smith said. "And that's just made him develop more and become a better player."

Metchie III said competing daily is the name of the game at Alabama.

"You just grow coming to Alabama knowing every day you're going to compete and this place is going to bring the best out of you," he said. "It's going to force the best out of you to be the best version of yourself, for you to be a competitor.

"And I think all of those ways I've definitely grown."

Metchie III wasn't the least bit surprised to see Smith win the Heisman and is hopeful it's a sign of things to come for others at his position.

"It's cool especially it being somebody from Alabama and somebody from our receiver room," Metchie III said. "I definitely hope more wide receivers win the Heisman Trophy coming up."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press