Your 2017 Ottawa Redblacks

With training camp in the books and the 2017 Canadian Football League season on the horizon, general manager Marcel Desjardins, head coach Rick Campbell and the Ottawa Redblacks had the difficult task of paring down the roster to the league-mandated maximum of 46 (not including injuries, plus 10 practise roster spots) over the weekend. 

Here’s the team that will storm the field at TD Place on Friday, June 23rd:

DB – Defensive Back

A.J. Jefferson (photo Scott Grant Photography)

21 Berger, Adam 🇨🇦
20 Bolduc, Jean-Philippe 🇨🇦
46 Carrington, Lloyd
19 Claiborne, Imoan
4 Gavins, Jerrell
24 Jefferson, A.J.
15 Johnson, Keelan
6 Pruneau, Antoine 🇨🇦
9 Rose, Jonathan
32 Taylor, Nicholas
33 West, Dan 🇨🇦

Definitely the biggest question mark coming into the 2017 season. While there are a few returning vets (Gavins, Pruneau) and the addition of former Toronto Argonaut standout Jefferson, the fact is this is an inexperienced group. And while that may be a fairly regular occurrence in the CFL, it nonetheless means dealing with the uncertainty that comes with young players and CFL rookies. That said, D-Block 2017 looks to be a very talented and athletic group, led by coach (and DB guru) Ike Charlton.

DL – Defensive Line

41 Gascon-Nadon, Arnaud 🇨🇦
99 Williams, Connor 🇨🇦
96 Ankrah, Jason
93 Ceresna, Jake
92 Evans, Zack 🇨🇦
49 Lattanzio, Ettore 🇨🇦
90 Marshall, Andrew 🇨🇦
97 Miller, Steven
47 Romick, Nigel 🇨🇦

After defensive backs, the defensive line is probably the next biggest question mark for the Grey Cup champs. The group remains a strong one, with high-end Canadian talent in Gascon-Nadon, Williams and Evans, but the fact remains Ottawa had difficulty getting to the opposing quarterback for most of the 2016 season. It appears the plan is to rotate seven or eight of these big boys with regularity, at least for the first few weeks of the season.

K – Kicker

3 Maher, Brett
39 Medeiros, Zack 🇨🇦

Maher returns to Ottawa following a strong 2016 season in Hamilton and a brief stint on the Cleveland Browns roster. Medeiros has had a strong camp by all accounts and has performed well in preseason games. Dare we say the kicking positions seem (knock on wood) somewhat solidified?

LB – Linebacker

22 Bass, Khalil
10 Bryant, Serderius
42 Omara, Ron 🇨🇦
44 Reed, Taylor

The Redblacks had some challenges at LB in 2016, with a fair amount of turnover, including adding ‘Tank’ Reed at mid-season and having Gavins (admirably) jump into the position from his normal DB spot(s). Bass was one of the most sought-after free agents available this offseason. This group looks strong.

LS – Long Snapper

52 Doll, Tanner 🇨🇦
50 Bourassa, Louis-Philippe 🇨🇦

Doll was solid in 2016, and 2017 draft pick Bourassa looks to be a versatile back-up that can contribute on special teams.

OL – Offensive Line

SirVincent Rogers (photo Scott Grant Photography)

53 Albright, Matthew 🇨🇦
68 Draheim, Tommie
63 Gott, Jon 🇨🇦
64 Johnson, Evan 🇨🇦
58 Lauzon-Séguin, Jason 🇨🇦
66 MacMillan, Nolan 🇨🇦
56 Mateas, Alex 🇨🇦
55 Rogers, SirVincent
59 Silas, Jake

With the return of Jake Silas this week, the Redblacks offensive line is essentially the same strong group from 2016. While J’Michael Deane is gone, 2017 first-round pick Evan Johnson will look to make his way into the rotation. Most importantly, guard SirVincent Rogers looks fully recovered from season-ending ankle injury. 

QB – Quarterback

Trevor Harris (photo Scott Grant Photography)

7 Harris, Trevor
14 Lindley, Ryan
5 Tate, Drew

For the first time in his pro career, Harris will be the undisputed starting QB. And while he has put up excellent numbers the last two seasons with extended time as fill-in starter, being “the guy” is a different kind of pressure. How Harris responds will be a – if not the – major storyline of the Redblacks season.

RB/FB – Running Back/Fullback

William Powell (photo Scott Grant Photography)

25 Gillanders, Brendan 🇨🇦
45 Gosselin, Anthony 🇨🇦
81 Lavoie, Patrick 🇨🇦
23 Madu Jr., Mossis
29 Powell, William

Powell was a force for Ottawa in the back-half of 2015, including a team-best performance in the Grey Cup loss. After missing all of 2016 with an Achilles injury, WiPo is healthy and looked strong in his limited preseason reps. Lavoie is the incumbent FB and should continue to be that 6th/7th receiving option for Harris.

WR – Wide Receiver

Diontae Spencer (photo Scott Grant Photography)

86 Criner, Juron
82 Ellingson, Greg
8 Harty, Jake 🇨🇦
2 Shaw, Kenny
88 Sinopoli, Brad 🇨🇦
85 Spencer, Diontae
87 Stangby, Joshua

The Redblacks got a lot younger at receiver this offseason, and many believe they have a chance to be even better than the 2016 crew. Lofty, considering they are coming off a second straight year where four receivers topped 1,000 yards. Shaw (1,004 yards for Toronto last year) & Spencer (706 yards in just 12 games with the Argos) are the big free agent additions, while Criner put up 446 yards in the final eight games of the year, including playoffs, once Chris Williams was lost for the year. Add these three to what we’ve come to expect from The Buds (Ellingson & Sinopoli), and the 2017 Redblacks receiving corps is setting up to challenge the league’s best. Is FIVE 1,000-yard receivers a possibility?

While there are always question marks, there’s little question the Redblacks have improved depth at most positions. Barring significant injury, a healthy Redblacks squad should contend for first in the East Division.

By the way, here’s the Redblacks practise roster for Week 1:

27 Baltimore, Sherrod (DB)
31 Brown, Kevin (LB)
17 Collins, Danny (QB)
98 Ellis, Avery (DL)
80 Hartley, Austen (WR) 🇨🇦
35 Jackson, Kevin (LB) 🇨🇦
57 Lofton, Eric (OL)
89 Rhymes, Dominique (WR)
69 Schmidt, Ryan (OL)
28 Tindal, Corey (DB)

PR UPDATE (6/22): Preseason standout WR Daje Johnson has been added to the practise roster, replacing OL Ryan Schmidt. Johnson will wear number 13.

It all starts Friday. Can’t wait.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

All photos courtesy Scott Grant Photography. Follow Scott on Twitter at @CFLPhotoArchive

Advertisements

Offseason of change begins for Grey Cup champs

By Cranky Frank Clair

I really don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t already been said about the Redblacks Grey Cup win. So instead of rehashing/celebrating what happened, I’m going to look ahead a bit. The Redblacks have a pile of pending free agents as do most other teams in the CFL. There are quarterback and management questions in other cities, and a team or two will be using the next few weeks to begin their march on Ottawa and the 2017 Grey Cup.  I won’t get too deep into Redblacks 2017 roster projects – there are too many moving parts at this point. But here’s a look at the current situation as well as my view of some other situations in other cities.

Redblacks offseason

Ernest Jackson & Jerrell Gavins (photo Scott Grant)

The CFL’s Big List of Free Agents now out, we can certainly look at the team’s offseason challenges.

This means there is much work to be done, but it’s the best kind of work – keeping a champion together and making it better. Not everyone will get to stay, however.

Sadly, Chris Williams is likely in the “won’t be back” category. He’ll be rehabbing his knee well into next summer and may be back just before his 30th birthday. That isn’t a great combo, especially considering that his last contract was likely in the $200k+ neighbourhood. Williams has his detractors, but his world-class speed kept defenders on their heels and opened up the field for his teammates. Losing him for 2017 will be doubly unfortunate because Trevor Harris has the arm to take full advantage of Williams’ talents.

The list of must-sign players is fairly long. Ernest Jackson, Mitchell White, Abdul Kanneh and Nolan MacMillan would be hard to replace. Tank Reed is the LB the Redblacks need – his presence boosted Damaso Muñoz. And #RNation needs to be concerned about John Boyett’s return – we never really heard much about his knee injury and now he’s looking at free agency. There are rumblings that Abdul Kanneh will be looking south, and now we hear that the team has released Cleyon Laing so he can look south as well. If I could, I would bring them both back. Laing proved his worth, collapsing pockets from the inside and making lots of room. As I hoped, he even played some DE and it proved an experiment worth continuing.

I somehow doubt we’ll see Aston Whiteside back. He never really recovered from his knee injury. Its hard to see from here whether the Redblacks rushed him back or whether the knee didn’t respond to treatment or whether he actually got reinjured. The Redblacks so-far fruitless search for its next speed rushing DE continues. But…given the way the Redblacks DLine performed in the Grey Cup, I’m inclined to think the team should stop trying to slot in an unproven speed DE and go with muscle. I saw some devastating power rushes from Laing and Connor Williams from the DE position, showing that Clydesdales can get the same result as a racehorse.

Antoine Pruneau (photo Scott Grant)

Meanwhile, fan favourite Antoine Pruneau is also a pending free agent. Without knowing enough about Montreal’s FS situation, must think that he’s a guy they’d love to sign. Pruneau gave an interview following the Grey Cup parade that made me think he is thinking about options other than returning to Ottawa. I have no quote that signals this, its was just a feeling. Jeff Richards (rumoured to have several opportunities in the NFL) may be a more consistent FS, but it is hard to deny that even without his passport, Pruneau is a big contributor and the Redblacks would be well-served to try to get him back.

Lots of potential for moving parts on the offensive line. J’Michael Deane and Nolan MacMillan are each pending free agents. MacMillan is a very good veteran presence. Deane had a lot of penalty issues this season. Jason Lauzon-Séguin is a legit starter at G and showed he can play OT. Backup Matthew Albright absolutely seems ready to start at G. Jake Silas has proven to be a solid RT, SirV is locked in for another 2 seasons as one of the league’s premier LTs. Tommie Draheim got better into the playoffs and the Grey Cup but is not a strong starter. The long-range plan was for John Gott to switch to G and have Alex Mateas take his place at centre. I don’t see that happening, possibly ever. 

Nolan MacMillan (photo Janet MacMillan)

The makeup of the 2017 OL hinges on whether MacMillan can be signed and whether management wants to keep Deane. I have my thoughts on how this should play out, but will save them for another column. I will say that Deane is possibly expendable which is unfortunate for a guy who may want to stay (he owns a house here).

It’s hard to say whether we’ll see FA RB William Powell back – if he’s willing to sign for not a ton of money upfront, then he’d certainly be worth bringing into camp and let him compete with Mossis Madu. Travon Van, who was a good insurance policy in 2016, likely isn’t a priority to re-sign.

Tanner Doll & Kienan Lafrance (photo Scott Grant)

Just a couple of special teams observations at this point. First, I spent a lot of Twitter characters questioning the removal of Kevin Malcolm from long snapper duties – he’s exceptionally good at delivering hard clean spirals to the punter. The team replaced him mid-season with Tanner Doll, who was immediately visible in ways that long snappers aren’t supposed to be. He improved as he went along, but most importantly, he showed why the team made the switch in the first place. Doll is a special teams coverage demon, not easy to do coming out of the snap.

Elsewhere across the CFL

Have to question what Chris Jones thinks he’s doing in Saskatchewan with the Darian Durant negotiations. Durant is a fan favourite, a very solid performer and there really isn’t a better QB on the market. Maybe Chris Jones is the genius he was supposed to be and he’s trying to save the team some needed cap space, or maybe he has a strong-armed rabbit to pull out of the proverbial hat. Or maybe he’s unnecessarily playing hardball with a QB who isn’t his guy. We’ll see.

Corey Watman (photo Scott Grant)

Then there’s Toronto. Word is that co-owner Larry Tanenbaum wants to appoint a football management layer between ownership and the team GM. It makes sense, and it’s an approach he sees working (I guess) with the Maple Leafs. Who will it be? A lot of the CFL’s grownups are either locked into great jobs or on the verge of taking on fewer responsibilities rather than more. I saw a suggestion that Eric Tillman could be the guy, and that makes sense. I’m not convinced of Tillman’s football genius, but I’m convinced that he’s the type of person who will be hired for that job.

In Winnipeg, a team that seems on the cusp of greatness just let its fans breathe a sigh of relief by re-signing Coach Michael O’Shea. Now, the team may be doing some serious soul-searching on whether they have a QB whose trajectory matches the rest of the team. If Saskatchewan loses Durant, he could be enough to propel Winnipeg to true contention in 2017.

Photo Scott Grant

The potential for stability on the Alouettes in 2017 should scare the rest of the East and help re-ignite fan interest in Montreal. Hamilton and Ottawa had it pretty easy in 2016 sharing a division with two teams in a bad downward spiral. A Montreal comeback will make the East much more of a horserace, although whether it would be enough to avoid a western crossover in 2017 remains to be seen. Look for Montreal’s new GM and the coaching staff to assemble and ready an offence that can take advantage of its young QBs. Either Rakeem Cato or Vernon Adams could emerge out of training camp as a legit dynamic playmaking QB and make the Als offence a nice complement to the team’s already good defence.

That’s it for now, I’ve tried to avoid talking about teams or situations where I don’t have information or a decent opinion, though I guess that’s really up to you to judge. I’ll check in again as teams sign more of their pending free agents. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @CrankyClair.

All the best, and Merry Christmas.

Cranky Frank Clair

Most photos courtesy of Scott Grant Photography. Follow on Twitter at @CFLPhotoArchive

 

 

 

Photo essay of a Grey Cup victory

It has been pure joy to read the many articles, blog entries, Facebook posts and Tweets capturing Ottawa’s first Grey Cup victory in 40 years. Nearly two weeks have passed and it still feels a bit dream-like. For a city and fanbase not used to having nice things, it has definitely been an adjustment period. 

Not often does a championship carry so much weight for a city and have such deep an impact on the families that support the team, with fans spanning two, three, even four generations. It is equal parts elation, relief and vindication for a city that too often gets a bad rap.

Thanks to all of you in #RNation for sharing your experiences, celebrations and memories. It’s been a real pleasure. 

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to try and capture my Grey Cup experience in photos rather than words (well, maybe just a few words). Hope you enjoy.

(Photos mostly courtesy my bro)











Grey Cup & poutine. #Canadianity



Sigh of relief. And now, gametime. Time to put the phones away…

…until late in the 4th quarter.

An onside kick away from sealing it and… oh crap. 

Put the phones away again!!!

It worked.







After an emotional night, the after-party was subdued but delicious!


After midnight on the walk back downtown to catch a cab. All’s quiet, but a final reminder of what this team just accomplished.


Best day ever. 

Two days later, celebrating with the rest of Ottawa:




Oh, and my dad was pretty pumped 🙂


Follow us on Twitter -> @DefendTheR

OSEG & Redblacks submit bid for 2017 Grey Cup; Ottawa’s GC history

Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in the capital is a step closer to securing another major event. In fact, perhaps the biggest one of them all.

What’s long been rumoured / speculated / expected will soon be set in motion at Ottawa city council, and on Monday, the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) confirmed their bid for the 2017 Grey Cup has been submitted to the CFL board of governors.

And while the awarding of the 105th Grey Cup may be pretty much a done deal, the pressure is definitely on the Redblacks to make it something special, befitting of the country’s sesquicentennial. 

(I had to look that up).

Some elements to consider:

Half-time show: Securing a big name half time act is key and you have to think there will be pressure to go Canadian. Lots of very talented Canadians doing great things in music, but this could be tough. Could they get someone like Drake to do it? Are groups like the Sam Roberts Band or Sheepdogs a big enough draw? Kardinal Offishall featuring Neil Young or Anne Murray?

Stadium upgrades: It’s always nice to show off a little when hosting friends from out of town, so why not throw a few extra bucks into TD Place? An east-end scoreboard would be amazing. Some work on the North Side concessions would be welcome, too.

Alumni: Bring in as many as you can find to as many events as possible. Renegades included. And we need lots of quality Russ Jackson time. Would be an opportune time to have a statue of the legend made.

Parliament Hill: Do something really cool there. Maybe a good start or end for the Grey Cup parade.

Another Trudeau Kick-Off? I’m not a huge fan of mixing sports & politics, but those Pierre Trudeau kick-offs are a great slice of Canadiana. Great opportunity to re-kindle the memories and give Justin some air time. So camera-shy, that one.

There will be plenty of time to discuss these and other ideas for making Grey Cup 105 the best event it can be. But before we look too far forward, let’s take a quick peek back at Ottawa’s history as Grey Cup hosts.

1925 Grey Cup

In the 12th Grey Cup game, played on Dec. 5th, your Ottawa Senators Football Club defeated the Winnipeg Tammany Tigers 24-1 in front of 6,900 rowdy Ottawans at Lansdowne Park. This would also be Ottawa’s first Grey Cup championship. Huzzah!

1939 Grey Cup

Played on Dec. 9th, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edged the home town Ottawa Rough Riders 8-7 in the 27th edition. The home team was robbed, no doubt. 

1940 Grey Cup

Bit of an asterisk here, as the 28th Grey Cup was a two-game total points series between the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers (terrible name) and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Games were played Nov. 30th (Toronto’s Varsity Stadium) and Dec. 7th (Lansdowne Park). The Riders took both ends of the series – by scores of 8-2 and 12-5 – to win Ottawa’s third Grey Cup.

1967 Grey Cup

It would be 27 long years before Ottawa would again host the Grey Cup. Played on Dec. 2nd, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the heck out of Saskatchewan 24-1. 31,358 showed up to watch.

WATCH: Short film from the National Film Board on the 1967 Grey Cup (h/t to @pinemud)

1988 Grey Cup

Ottawa waited another 21 years for their next opportunity to play host. The 76th edition of the Grey Cup was played on Nov. 27th, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edging the BC Lions 22-21. Our friends at Wikipedia capture the storylines nicely:

This was the first Grey Cup game between two teams from west of Ontario, and the first to be won by a team which had only a .500 season.

Crossover. Yuck.

2004 Grey Cup
 
This event was essentially the swan song for the Ottawa Renegades franchise. During Grey Cup week, the Ottawa Sun broke the story that Brad Watters’ ownership group was working on selling the three-year-old franchise to the father-son-ownership-group-that-shall-not-be-named.

The game took place on Nov. 21st, with the Damon Allen-led Toronto Argonauts defeating the Lions 27-19.

I was fortunate enough to attend this game. My first Grey Cup, in fact. Couple of blurry memories:

  • While I had my ticket on me, no one ever asked to see it nor was it ever scanned. Honour system, I guess. 
  • Shortly after Allen took the field for the first time, I made sure to yell out “Ho-bart!” Yep, I’m that awesome.
  • Metal benches on the South Side upper deck weren’t ideal on a chilly night. Not that I really had a chance to get cold with so many people rammed into each row. More like seat suggestions, really. Very sardine can-like.
  • Getting to the bathroom at halftime was probably the worst experience of my life. Missed all of the Tragically Hip and about the first eight minutes of the 3rd quarter.

What will Grey Cup 105 (Presented by Shaw) have in store for Ottawa? No doubt a home game would be music to #RNation’s ears.

Speaking of which:

  

Thanks for reading!

Follow us on Twitter:
@DefendTheR
@OTTRoughRiders

      The Evolution of Renegade Nation

      By: Santino Filoso

      Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 5.40.03 PM

      Every fan base has them, those die-hards who stick with their team through thick and thin. But in most cities, those fans aren’t as well organized or as close as one group in Ottawa. Back before every single fan base in every single sport gave themselves the “Nation” moniker, there was Renegade Nation.

      In 2002, six years after the historic Rough Riders franchise folded leaving a gaping hole at Lansdowne Park and in the hearts of their fans, the Renegades returned CFL football to Ottawa. During the CFL’s absence, internet use exploded and across the country online forums like the 13th Man (http://www.13thman.com/) sprung up for CFL fans to preview games, play armchair GM, debate player personnel moves and plan tailgates. Tired of being left out in the cold, a couple of passionate fans, Phil Tanguay JF Fournier, Glen Handley and Shane Johns decided to take matters into their own hands. After a chance meeting at an early season game, Renegade Nation was born.

      For Handley, you could say that the foundation of Renegade Nation was the consummation of a lifetime of supporting Ottawa football. It began with a childhood summer boating trip from Kingston up the Rideau River to Ottawa. “We were floating along, and just after passing Dow’s Lake I saw a huge building, full of people. I asked my mother what it was and she replied that it was where the Ottawa football team played. At that moment, an enormous roar bellowed from the stadium. I was awestruck and the sound of those fans sent a chill through me that I still feel to this day.” From that moment onwards, Handley has been obsessed with Ottawa’s CFL teams. Despite living in Oshawa, he never missed a Rough Riders game, (normally watching on TV but sometimes in person when the opportunity presented itself) and eventually moved to Ottawa for school, mainly because of the team. Unfortunately, shortly after he relocated to the capital, the Rough Riders folded. When football returned in 2002, Handley was as passionate as ever and quickly bought season tickets.

      After it’s inception, it didn’t take long for a Renegade Nation flag (featuring their beloved mascot Skully) and tents to become fixtures behind the South Side stands in Lansdowne’s parking lot on game day, often appearing 10 hours before kick off. As word spread, groups of 20-30 people were regularly tailgating with members of Renegade Nation. Soon, their tailgates featured drop ins by Renegade staff members, players and coaches.

      Another great turnout %21
      Members of Renegade Nation tailgating
      Great Group Shot
      Gerald Vaughn stopping by before the game

      Along with the Southsiders (with whom they are closely aligned), Renegade Nation was a visible fan presence the Renegades sorely needed.  “We had a pretty symbiotic relationship with the team”, recalls Shane Johns. “We helped them generate buzz, gave some great visuals to TSN, and they treated us well”. While not overly rowdy, Renegade Nation always managed to express themselves. In fact, an unnamed member made it a point to moon the opponent’s team bus each week as the visitors arrived at the stadium. “That got a huge laugh out of Pinball Clemons when the Argos came in” remembers Johns.

      One of Renegade Nation’s proudest moments came in 2005, when two players were fined following an on field scuffle. Members of Renegade Nation believed that the Ottawa players were merely sticking up for their teammates and so a hat was passed around to raise money to help pay the fines. They collected more than $300 and with the help of a local reporter, managed to get access to the team locker room to turn the money over to the players. One of the players being fined, Jerome Haywood, was overcome with emotion and had tears in his eyes when he found out what the money was for. “For us, it was just part of supporting the team”, says Johns.

      But perhaps the online forum’s true value was only fully realized when Ottawa lost it’s CFL team for the second time. “That announcement in April 2006 was like a collective punch to the gut” says Dennis Prouse, “yet the Nation hung together. We used this board, and the friendships we built, to encourage each other, keep the spirit of football alive, and ultimately strategize and help out with the efforts to secure another franchise and revitalize Lansdowne Park. I can’t tell you how proud I am of everything Nation members did in terms of writing letters, doing media interviews, appearing at public meetings, and anything else we could think of to bring the CFL back to Ottawa. Those were some dark times, but we never lost hope, and I like to believe that the spirit of Renegade Nation played a significant role in the establishment of the REDBLACKS and the building of TD Place.”

      We%27re Back
      Members gathered at Hometown to watch the Redblacks away game in Winnipeg

      The friendships built during the Renegade era are what helped so many members cope during those dark days. “From 2006 to 2009 or so, things were bleak. We would all constantly check the board to see if there was any news. Everyone was bummed about losing our team, but we had each other to bitch to and that was something. By 2010 we had a feeling we’d get our team back but with the endless delays our patience was really tested. Then one day it finally happened. All of us have been through a lot together. We’ve had get togethers at Gee Gee games, and one year we even did a Christmas dinner that had 30 guys show up!” says Cam McFayden, another long time member. “With over 100 registered members, during the lean years we probably had a group of 10-15 guys who still posted regularly”.

      The beauty of an online forum is that it truly allows anyone to be included. Take the case of Solar Max, Renegade Nation’s lone West Coast member and currently the Redblacks furthest living season ticket holder, as confirmed by Jeff Hunt himself. Max’s grandfather and father were both season ticket holders in Ottawa during the ‘60s and ‘70s and Max grew up watching his father being able to park anywhere he wanted at Lansdowne on game days due to the huge R decal on his windshield. Living so far from Ottawa, Max had no idea that the private Renegade Nation forum even existed until 2005. As he puts it: “In 2005, the Grey Cup was held in Vancouver and while I’d been to Grey Cups in other cities, I hadn’t done one near where I lived in a long while. I decided to volunteer to pick up various Ottawa fans and dignitaries at Vancouver airport attending Greg Cup”.

      One of those Ottawa fans he gave a ride to just happened to be Glen Handley. During the ride they got to talking and when questioned by Glen about the numerous Ottawa logos plastered on his car, Max replied that he was the only Ottawa fan he knew in BC. That’s when Max received his invitation and membership to Renegade Nation.

      “I was over the moon to discover a world of people like me that lived, breathed, ate and slept Ottawa football” he says. “I had a duplicate of our Renegade Nation flag with Skully made, and I took it to every CFL stadium in 2006 after our team was murdered by Tom Wright and the CFL’s Board of Governors, in order to show other cities and fans that we of Renegade Nation, we die-hard Ottawa fans would not be forgotten, or shoved aside.”

      RNwest03
      Skully’s Cross Canada Tour: BC
      IMG_0702
      Skully’s cross Canada Tour: Edmonton
      RenegadeNationatMcMahonStadium
      Skully’s cross Canada Tour: Calgary
      SkullyRegina
      Skully’s cross Canada Tour: Regina
      BTA
      Skully’s Cross Canada Tour: Winnipeg
      To07
      Skully’s cross Canada Tour: Toronto
      IvorWynne
      Skully’s Cross Canada Tour: Hamilton

      While Ottawa might not have had a team between 2006-2013, that never stopped members of Renegade Nation from attending the Grey Cup. Every year a group of members coordinate their accommodation and which events they attend to always ensure that Ottawa was well represented at the country’s biggest party.

      1465272_1511130682469414_1782894388300485650_n
      R-Nation at the 102nd Grey Cup

      When football finally returned to Ottawa last season, many in Renegade Nation felt it was time to rebrand, in order to stay modern and relevant. Some in the group felt that Renegade Nation was too outdated and clung to the past, so after some discussion someone proposed the name R-Nation. “The R is to represent the Rough Riders, Renegades, and Redblacks and it also sounds like ‘Our Nation’ which has a great feel to it” explains Handley. “The main thing was incorporating the R since it’s been such a great logo for us”.

      New R-Nation Banner based on Renegaders Work w hyphen

      After voting to rebrand as R-Nation, members of the group began using the hashtag on twitter, especially when tweeting at the team. “We wanted Ottawa’s fan base to have a good nickname” says Santino Filoso, “Redblacks Nation doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue the same way R-Nation does”. Much to OSEG’s credit, they took the ball and ran with it, quickly adopting and using the moniker on their various social media platforms.

      Another key change Renegade Nation made was to move from a private forum, where membership was only granted by invitation or word of mouth, to an open public forum, accessible to anyone at all willing to talk Ottawa football. Though everyone is now welcome (including fans of opposing teams), spamming and trolling with not be tolerated, meaning first time offenders will be permanently banned.

      With a recent overhaul of their website and new members joining every day, things have never been better for members of R-Nation. When not chatting online, members meet up on game days, tailgating however they can. With no on site tailgating currently allowed at Lansdowne, the group has been forced to get creative, using Carleton’s parking lot this past season, despite run ins with campus security. “It’s unfortunate that tailgating in the shadow of TD Place isn’t currently an option” says Handley, “but I’m confident that with a little bit of patience we’ll figure something out”.

      So what are you waiting for? Head over to http://r-nation.ca/ and join today!

      @RedBlackGade

      P.S. A huge thank you to all members of Renegade Nation who made this story possible

      #TBT: Looking back with Pat Woodcock

      By: Santino Filoso

      woodcock1

      Today we catch up with Pat Woodcock, one of the most successful CFL players to come out of Ottawa. After finishing his college career at Syracuse University and a short stint in the NFL with the New York Giants (and later the Washington Redskins), Woodcock began his CFL career in Montreal. 2002 was a breakout year for Woodcock, culminating with a Grey Cup ring, a Grey Cup record and the Dick Suderman Trophy (awarded to the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian). In 2004 Woodcock signed with the Renegades and over the following two seasons made 64 catches for 860 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 13.4 yards per catch. Following the Renegades dispersal draft, Woodcock went on to play for Edmonton Eskimos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before retiring in 2008.

      Growing up were you a Rough Rider fan and did you ever imagine you’d play professionally at Lansdowne?

      I think everyone at some point dreams of playing for their hometown team when they’re playing pickup games or dreaming about the future. As a kid, I had the chance to play during halftime of 1988 Grey Cup, which of course was an amazing experience. The Rough Riders folded just as I headed to Syracuse University to play college football, so it certainly wasn’t on my radar by that time.

      woodcock2

      In the 90th Grey Cup (2002), you won the Most Valuable Canadian award and had a historic 99 yard touchdown play. Take us through it.

      Field conditions were lousy, and it had been a really slow start to the game for both sides. During the week, we’d played around with different receiver formations to capitalize on match ups. For this play, I ended up in the slot closest to Anthony Calvillo on the wide side of the field. The route was called D97; the receiver outside of me had a “Go” or “9” route, and I was running diagonally across the field. Basically the safety had to choose one of us, and he chose poorly. As the ball got to me I could feel him just missing the tackle behind me, then it was a pure sprint to the end zone. When I got to the sideline, Chris Cuthbert told me that I’d set the record for longest TD reception in the Grey Cup. For a Canadian kid who grew up with the Grey Cup being the biggest day of the year, it was a pretty surreal moment.

      23963_10151330052965928_1750193768_n

      How would you describe your time with the Renegades?

      I think the only way to describe it would be bittersweet. It was frustrating that we were never able to use the full talent of the players on our team and achieve more success. And the way we were treated by management was extremely disappointing, we all had such high hopes for the organization, but unfortunately the owners at the time had no interest in really trying to run a professional team.

      On the other hand, I was able to fulfill a dream and play for the hometown team, and it was amazing being able to play in front of friends and family again after having been away for college and the early part of my pro career. Not to mention that of all the teams I played for, it’s the Renegades teammates that I’m most in contact with today.

      woodcock4

      After the 2005 season, did the players have a feeling the Renegades were going to fold or did it catch you off guard?

      I don’t know if we really thought the team would fold, but obviously we knew that things weren’t moving in a good direction. It wasn’t much of a surprise to be honest.

      Why did you wear #16?

      When I first started playing at 8 years old, they gave me #16. I changed numbers a couple of times when I was in high school, but then when I got to Syracuse they gave me #16 as well. I took that as a bit of a sign and just kept it after that.

      Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.31.12 PM

      Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?

      I think it’s easy to say the 2002 season; being named an all-star, winning the Grey Cup and the Top Canadian Award, and setting that record. But I’m proud of my career as a whole, I had a dream and a goal from a very young age and made a plan, worked really hard, and achieved everything I dreamed of. Not many people get to say that.

      What was your most disappointing loss?

      Probably the 2003 Grey Cup. I definitely felt like we had as good a team if not better than in ’02, but on that particular day things didn’t go our way. It would’ve been pretty special to win two Grey Cups back-to-back.

      woodcock3

      Who is the funniest guy you ever played with?

      Wow, that’s a really hard question, football locker rooms are pretty crazy places and I played for 8 years. If I had to pick one guy for all-round craziness and non-stop jokes, it would have to be Sherrod Gideon. He was a receiver for the Renegades in 2004 and I’m not sure that guy ever said a serious word in his life.

      What are you currently doing for work?

      I actually partnered with another former Renegade, Donnie Ruiz, and together we run Elite Performance Academy in Kanata. We’re a High Performance Athlete Development Program and we work with many of Ottawa’s top athletes. Our clients include professional and national level athletes from the NFL, CFL, NASL, NLL, Team Canada Baseball, Basketball and Taekwondo, Team Ontario Game Medalists, Team France Lacrosse, prep school athletes with scholarships in football, basketball and lacrosse. Not to mention over 60 NCAA and CIS athletes in every sport from football to soccer to rugby and rowing.

      CAEgNnVUkAA0d1t

      If you had one piece of advice you could offer young football players, what would it be?

      It’s actually that they’re playing too much football! With the way the various leagues (at least in Ontario) are set up, many young athletes are playing close to 30 football games in a single year. There are lots of issues with this, all stemming around the fact that because they are always playing, they never have a chance to just work on their individual game. They’re constantly beating down their bodies physically, and not spending any time actually developing the strength, speed, and skill required to compete at the next level.  It also means 30 games worth of collisions and head impacts, which surely is influencing the number of concussions we’re seeing in young players.

      B8ZANAZCMAAMPPj

      Do you still keep in touch with a lot of your former teammates?

      Yes, quite a few. As I mentioned, I work with Donnie Ruiz every day and we also run Elite Football Academy during the winter and have had a number of former teammates as part of our coaching staff, including Darren Joseph, Steve Glenn, Mike Sutherland.  Yo Murphy and Kerry Joseph are also involved in training athletes (in the States), so we keep in touch with them as well.

      Now that you are retired, what do you most miss about playing in the CFL?

      I miss the guys, and the competition. I’m lucky in that my post football career provides a little bit of both of those things; our staff and our athletes are kind of like being in a locker room and we compete with our athletes occasionally as part of their training and development. But it’s not quite the same, there’s nothing like a football family and going on the field each week and laying it on the line together.

      Are you a Redblacks season ticket holder?

      Yes sir and I’m looking forward to season two! There’s definitely a different feel to games when you’re watching from the stands.

      Thanks for everything Pat and best of luck training the next generation of CFL athletes!

      @RedBlackGade

      – All images via Scott Grant Photography

      #TBT: Looking back with Marc Parenteau

      By: Santino Filoso

      Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 4.43.27 PM

      In today’s Throwback Thursday Interview we sit down with offensive lineman Marc Parenteau. Drafted by the Renegades in 2003, Marc went on to play for Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Toronto during the course of his 9 year career, winning two Grey Cups (in 2007 and 2012) along the way.

      RR: After being drafted by the Renegades with the 36th pick in 2003, you didn’t get to start a game until 2005, how frustrating was that experience?

      MP: I actually decided not pursue any NFL or CFL options after my collegiate career at Boston College. I’d played a lot of football since I managed to avoid being redshirted and played every game for four years, going to four straight Bowl games and earning All-Star nods my final two years. I felt that my football career was full and I was content to leave it there, so after college I accepted a job with a private company. At the time I was also coaching at Bishop’s University and while there I got the “itch” to play back and decided to try and make a comeback in 2005. I was fortunate enough to make the Renegades after a two year hiatus.

      When you think back to your time with Ottawa, what sticks with you the most?

      The city and fans were so great, all they wanted was a well managed team that could compete in the league.  I never would have left if they hadn’t folded.

      On the line of scrimmage pretty much anything goes if the ref doesn’t notice. What were some of your favourite tricks or techniques that you used to give yourself an edge that might not have always been legal?

      Holding hahaha!  I didn’t cheapshot opponents but if I got my hands on you I was going to hold you until that whistle blew.

      Who was the most ferocious defender you where ever matched up against?

      Adriano Belli, I always knew it was going to be a tough game when I played him

      Describe the feeling you got as an lineman when you pulled on a sweep and got to take a 15 yard run at a DB.

      I felt scared! Mostly because as a lineman you know the DBs are quicker than you and that they would do anything to avoid contact. You always knew you might totally miss them and get ridiculed by fellow offensive lineman in meetings the next day.

      Did you have any pre-game superstitious?

      I did early in my career.  Ranging from what I would eat, to the order of how I got ready to the drills I did pre-game on the field.  I got away from those at the end of my career and took a bit of a more relaxed approach.

      Offensive linemen pride themselves on ignoring the elements and always wearing short sleeves. Did you ever cave and cover up your arms?

      Now and then in practice but never in games.

      Mike Abou-Mechrek told me that you were the funniest guy he’s ever played with. What kind of things did you do to keep the mood light at practice or during games?

      Oh Mike! I would hide people’s stuff in the locker room, make jokes pre-game or even sometimes in the huddle between plays. Sometimes when they’d put up the 50/50 draw on the scoreboard and I’d stop everyone in the huddle to show them.

      What was the most memorable prank you ever involved in?

      Too many to name and some of those are top secret since they still don’t know it was me.  Let’s just say some players were sent “seat belt extenders” on plane trips by flight attendants in front of everyone. Also if a rookie acted out he may have found his stuff frozen in a big ball in the ice machine the next day.

      Which fan base has the best hecklers?

      I’d say it’s a tie between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

      On the field did you talk a lot of trash or were you more of the silent type?

      Mostly silent but I had the occasional game where I was lippy.

      In terms of style, what was your favourite jersey to wear?

      Anything that fit properly hahaha.

      Why #57?

      I was #73 in high school and college but OL can’t wear numbers in 70s in the CFL. I settled on #57 because I liked the look of it.

      32109_435131870922_1242246_n

      Which Grey Cup win was more satisfying, 2007 or 2012?

      That’s an unfair question, that’s like picking a favourite son! They’re both very special to me for various reasons.

      FSCN0740

      CFL: 100th Grey Cup Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts

      CFL: 100th Grey Cup Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts

      You are the only lineman in CFL history to ever score a touchdown in a Grey Cup (2010), talk us through that play.

      It was originally put into the game plan two weeks earlier and even though we didn’t use it we left it in the goal line package. When the call game in during the Grey Cup I couldn’t believe it and was even more in shock that it was actually thrown to me. It’s an awesome memory and still without a doubt the best celebration in CFL history. When the play started I knew I really had to make it look like a run and once I cleared the line I didn’t see anyone within 10 yards of me. Glory followed.

       

      As a Sherbooke native, which CIS team do you cheer for?

      I actually moved to Florida when I was 12 years old so I never followed any CIS team.

      Why did you choose to settle in Ottawa after you finished your CFL career?

      I would have never left if it was up to me.  Even when they announced they were bringing a team back I patiently waited hoping to get a chance to play for it, but it kept getting delayed and then I was at the end of my career.  Ottawa is such a beautiful city and the perfect place for my real estate business. I wouldn`t want to be anywhere else

      Finish the sentence. Every tourist coming to Ottawa should…..

      Visit the Byward Market. It’s close to Parliament Hill and there’s tons of activities to do

      Have you made it out to any Redblacks games? 

      I made it to the opener and it was a great game! I have a bunch of friends who play on the team.

      North Side or South Side?

      No comment

      Thanks so much for your time Marc and I look forward to seeing you at more Redblacks’ games in 2015!

      @RedBlackGade

      *All images via Marc’s collection