Montrealer Thomas-Erlington's CFL career comes full circle after signing with Alouettes

“I’m feeling like eventually, this career is about to come to an end, being realistic,” the tailback says.

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Canadian tailback Sean Thomas-Erlington has spurned the Alouettes in the past when he became a free agent, choosing instead to always re-sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

But this time seemed different, he said. Perhaps the stars were aligned, with the release of William Stanback, potentially creating an opening in the Als’ backfield. Also, at age 31 and preparing for his seventh CFL season, Thomas-Erlington realized the end of his career, in all likelihood, is coming up fast. If not sign now, perhaps never.

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The 5-foot-9, 217-pound Thomas-Erlington signed with the Als last Tuesday, on the opening day of free agency.

“I’m feeling like eventually, this career is about to come to an end, being realistic,” Thomas-Erlington told the Montreal Gazette by telephone. “I know there’s a lot of guys on the Montreal team I’ve played with on the Carabins. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do … to get back that feeling of just playing with the boys.

“It has been in the back of my mind since the end of last season. It felt like the right time. I feel like everything just aligned.”

The Montreal native was selected in the eighth round (66th overall) by the Ticats in 2017 after playing collegiately at Université de Montréal under Als general manager Danny Maciocia, the Carabins’ former head coach. The school captured the Vanier Cup in 2014.

Heading into this season, Thomas-Erlington has 76 career regular-season games on his resumé, with 1,258 rushing yards including seven touchdowns. He also has caught 75 passes for 721 yards with four touchdowns.

The 2023 campaign was his least productive with Hamilton, perhaps making the departure from the organization more palatable. Thomas-Erlington began the season on injured reserve and was limited to 11 games. He had 16 carries for 88 yards while catching 12 passes for 90 yards, scoring a combined two touchdowns.

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“The chances are I’m closer to retirement,” he admitted. “I had a small opportunity to join the team last year and the previous year. The fact that Stanback left (signing with B.C.), it was meant to be, I guess.”

A hard and punishing runner, Thomas-Erlington seemed to always save his best performances against the Als. In two games in 2018, he had a combined 10 carries for 81 yards. He only played four games the following year, suffering a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. The mishap, coincidentally, occurred at Molson Stadium when Thomas-Erlington was the Ticats’ starter. He had nine carries for 47 yards in that game before being carried off the field.

In 2021, he had a combined 17 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns in a pair of games against Montreal.

“I guess I had some kind of chip on my shoulders when I played Montreal,” Thomas-Erlington said. “It’s also the fact a lot of people, family and friends, would come and see me once or twice a year. I just feel like I play well at Molson Stadium. Hopefully this year I’ll play nine times and it’ll be my time.”

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While it’s too premature to speculate on how Thomas-Erlington will be utilized, should head coach Jason Maas elect to put him in the backfield with fellow non-import Jeshrun Antwi, that would open up a spot for another American on designated plays. Potential free-agent import Walter Fletcher was re-signed to replace Stanback. The organization will have to retain at least one other import to back Fletcher up.

Thomas-Erlington said he spoke to Maas after signing. “From what he’s telling me, I think he wants to use me at different positions. It gives the team that element of flexibility.”

The Als last week also added former Hamilton defensive lineman Dylan Wynn as a free agent. The 6-foot-2, 283 pounder has played 77 games over six seasons with Toronto and the Ticats, registering 173 tackles and 29 quarterback sacks, including a career-high 11 in 2019. The Concord, Calif., native is 30.

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