With the announcement that adidas will be taking over as rights holder for CFL uniforms starting in 2016, the first question every fan asked was ‘will the jerseys be different?’ The move to adidas from Reebok is a bit of a unique scenario, as adidas is actually the parent company of Reebok. So, the thinking in some circles is that existing uniforms may simply be re-badged with adidas logos, rather than completely refreshed. On the other hand, a simple re-badging seems like a big missed opportunity for the new rights holder looking to make a splash.
At this point we really don’t know which way it’ll go. Likely a few teams will take the opportunity to start fresh, while others may stick pretty close to their current designs. Most believe we have seen the last of the so-called Signature Look 3rd jerseys, at least in their current forms.
That sound you hear is Bomber fans celebrating.
As for the Redblacks, have to think significant changes will be made. Not that the current uniforms are awful, but there are definite issues. First and foremost, the two-tone notched numbers are difficult for fans and broadcasters alike. From a distance it can be a real challenge to differentiate a six from and eight.
The ones look a bit like sevens, too.
Then there’s the oversized font used on the namebar. Readability isn’t an issue, but the size causes the white namebar to impede on the black shoulders of the away (white) uniforms.
That ain’t pretty.
Also, given how fans have quickly gravitated to red and black plaid at TD Place, one has to think it will be incorporated into the home & away uniforms, not only the alternate.
So those are some of my thoughts on areas for improvement. I don’t dislike the current uniforms – the 2015 Grey Cup run solidified their place in my heart – but they can be better.
Now, let’s see what the artists think.
First is this from CFL artist Nelson Hackewich (who did a great job on all 9 teams – check them out):
Stripes on the shoulders of the home (black) and away (white) uniforms are a welcome change. The suggested use of ‘ROUGEetNOIR’ on the front of the away uniform is also a great (and I think very necessary) improvement.
Nelson went with a 1940s-era Ottawa Rough Riders jersey for the 3rd/alternate. It’s a very cool look. Love the numbers on the helmet. But I have to think when the Redblacks decide to adopt a throwback jersey for the first time they go with something from the Riders glory days in the 1960s.
Here’s an earlier flat version of the home and away above:
Next up is Defend the R contributor and fellow jersey nerd Nevill Carney with this updated jersey concept:
Single-colour numbering. Check. Classic piping on the shoulders. Check. Use of ‘OTTAWA’ on the front of the jersey. Check. 60s Rough Riders throwback. Check check. Only thing missing is perhaps more plaid. Pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point.
And right on cue, some updates from Nevill:
There you have it. Small Redblacks logo on the back is a nice touch, too.
This concept was actually done in the summer of 2015 supposing the CFL moved to Nike. Regardless, some great design elements. Here are the creator’s thoughts:
The primary uniforms (first set) feature an R-less logo on the sleeves, with matching chainsaw striping on the pants, and the home set features red pants to honor the team’s name. The RedBlacks’ Pride uniforms (2nd set) expand upon the team’s lumberjack-inspired identity, with a higher emphasis on red and red and black plaid on the helmet, sleeve caps, and pants. The look is sure to be a hit among die-hard fans and hipsters alike.
Really think he/she nailed so much on these sets, including the smaller namebar font, single colour numbers (while maintaining the notched number design), strong use of plaid (though not sure it works as well on the helmet…) and an overall cleaner/simpler look. Both those black jersey/red pant sets are stunning. Great job.
Finally, riderfans.com user Joe747 with his/her take:
A user on the forum noted the similarity to the Ottawa Renegades 2005 uniforms.
Very much so. Also similarities to the Atlanta Falcons. Not that either of those are bad things. The use of plaid on the home and away sets is just right. The classic red down the middle of the helmet is very Rough Riders. A very nice, modern set.
Interesting to note that every concept features some variation of a black helmet. Perhaps it’s the Ottawa tradition. Personally, I like the white helmets. I also might have expected someone to try a red helmet (we are the REDblacks, after all), but not to be. At least not yet.
Before you go, just thought I’d toss in this (somewhat) interesting (to me) screen capture from a video the Redblacks put together highlighting Burris’ MOP season in 2015:
Probably not indicative of anything, but I suppose it could be a tease. I do like the classic piping on the arms. Very Russ Jackson-esque.
No official date has been set for the new uniform release by the way, but odds are we will see something early May.
Thanks for reading!
Have a concept? We’d love to see it! Hit us up at @DefendTheR.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Vancouver born and raised, today’s guest, Mike Vilimek, played RB and LB in high school before going on to set school records at Simon Fraser University. Drafted with the second of two 1st round picks the Renegades held in the 2002 CFL draft, Vilimek played for 3 years in Ottawa before signing with Montreal as a free agent in 2005.
As a Vancouver native, did you get out to a lot of Lions games as a kid?
Yes. My most memorable was the 1994 Grey Cup, when the Lions faced the Baltimore Stallions. I was only 15 at the time and was offered a pair of tickets at the last minute. After Lui Passaglia kicked the game-winning field goal for the Lions, the building erupted. It was a great experience.
You played university football at Simon Fraser, setting a school record for most rushing yards in a game with 315. What do you remember about that day?
Often when a back sets a rushing record, the game is a blowout. Not in this case. We were in a close back-and-forth match-up with Humboldt State University. We ended up needing every one of those yards to beat them 37-34. I also surpassed the SFU single season rushing record that game so it was a very special day for me.
The Renegades selected you 2nd overall in the 2002 draft, did you feel any pressure being drafted so high?
Not really. All the excitement of the team’s inaugural season plus the fact that every player on the team was a first-year Renegade lessened the focus on rookies like myself. That being said, I had success running the ball in our first pre-season game which I think probably set higher expectations for me than being drafted 2nd overall did. Unfortunately, that success in the pre-season didn’t translate into opportunities to carry the ball in the regular season.
During your time in Ottawa you often were the lead blocker for Josh Ranek, who was nicknamed “The Little Ball of Hate”. As a FB why did you enjoy blocking for a guy like that?
Josh got that nickname because every time he touched the ball, he ran with it like he was angry. And he had a lot of success doing it. Off the field, he was very polite, no ego, and was one of the nicest guys on the team. Blocking for a guy like that is always fun.
A lot of people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?
Not really. I can’t say it was ever a distraction to me as a player. However, I left for Montreal as a free agent after the 2004 season, so I never experienced ownership under the Gliebermans. But if you ask players from the 2005 season, they may have a different story.
Throughout your career you were a special teams ace, making numerous tackles on kick coverage. What’s the trick to containing a dangerous returner?
Usually a dangerous returner is going to be faster than you, so the only way to contain him is to use the sidelines, your teammates, and by keeping proper angles. You can’t allow him to turn it into a foot race because you’ll lose.
How did you pump yourself up before a big game?
Some guys like to listen to music or yell and jump up and down. My routine was more about visualization. I’d walk through the game in my mind and visualize the plays I would make. That way when the game started I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
What was the best hit you ever gave and the worst you received?
The best hit I gave was in a game versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I lined up as a slot receiver just outside the defensive end. The play was designed to come wide to my side so at the snap of the ball, the defensive end came up field thinking he had a free run at the QB. He never saw it coming. It was one of those hits where the guy goes airborne. For the rest of the game, I could see him looking where I was lined up before each play.
The worst hit I received wasn’t one of those highlight real hits and it’s not the kind of hit many fans would even notice. When you’re in a pile of people and someone gets a running start at you, the momentum from the hit has no where to go but to be absorbed by your body. Those hits hurt the most.
In 2005 you signed with Montreal and went on to become a goal line specialist, scoring 5 TDs that season. Did you do anything differently that year or was it just a case of the coach giving you an opportunity?
I never got much of a chance to contribute as a ball carrier with Ottawa. I had success running the ball in the pre-season three years in a row, (interestingly enough against Montreal, who I would eventually sign with as a free agent) but that pre-season success in Ottawa never transferred to opportunities in the regular season. In my first year with Montreal, they simply gave me the chance, and I ran with it, literally.
Where do you feel is the toughest stadium in the CFL to go in and get a win?
Definitely BC Place. In my years with Ottawa and Montreal, we never once got a win at BC Place, regular season or playoffs. We could beat BC at home, but never at their place. Some blamed the 3 hour time change where a 7pm kickoff meant teams from back East were playing starting a game at 10pm. I don’t really buy that, but I don’t have a better explanation either.
When I arrived at SFU as a freshman, that happened to be the number that was available. After the success I had at the university level, I wanted to keep the same number. Fortunately I was able to get #35 as both a Renegade and as an Alouette.
Are there any losses that still haunt you?
Yeah. The 2005 and 2006 Grey Cup games. I got to play in two Grey Cups in my CFL career, but ended up retiring without a ring. Any professional athlete will tell you retiring without ever winning the ‘big one’ is tough.
Since you retired, what have you been doing for work?
I’m a Director at Oracle, one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world. I lead a team responsible for the global go-to-market strategies and activities for Oracle’s HCM Cloud solutions.
Did you still keep in touch with any other former Renegades?
Not as much as I used to. It pains me to say, but most of the updates I get now come from Facebook.
Any plans to return to Ottawa and catch a Redblacks game?
Ottawa is a great city, especially in the summer. I haven’t been back since I stopped playing but I hope to make it back soon. I’d love to take in a Redblacks game. Even with the renovated stadium, I’m sure it would bring back a lot of memories.
Thanks for your time Mike and hope to see you in Ottawa soon!
Today’s interview features Ottawa native and former Renegades punter Pat Fleming. With 19,838 career punting yards to his credit, Pat averaged 41.7 yards per kick over the course of his five years in the CFL. The Renegades’ 2003 rookie of the year was selected by the Hamilton Ticats in the Renegades’ dispersal draft and finished his career with the Winnipeg Bombers.
As an Ottawa native, did you go to many Rough Rider games as a child?
My dad was a season ticket holder when I was growing up and still is today. I went to a lot of the games with him and loved it. I have lots of memories growing up watching the Rough Riders and actually my 5th grade project was on the CFL and the Grey Cup.
Have you always been a punter or did you make the switch from another position at some point?
Growing up I played defensive back (DB) and free safety (FS). When I went to college at Bowling Green I went as a safety and punter. Once I earned a scholarship as the starting punter I knew my days playing DB were over. That’s when I became strictly a punter. I started punting and kicking when I was 10 years old when my coach at the time asked us “Who can kick the ball?”. I didn’t know I could until I tried it but I was the best on our team and realized I was blessed with the ability to kick the ball far. The rest is history.
The Renegades selected you in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft (11th overall), did you have any idea that they were interested in you?
None whatsoever, my mother heard it on the radio and she called me to let me know. At the time I still had a year left at Bowling Green.
How did it feel to spend three years playing for your hometown team?
It was amazing. There’s nothing like playing on the same field where you grew up watching Rough Rider greats and dreaming about being a professional football player. I enjoyed my time in Hamilton and Winnipeg, but nothing compares to playing in your home town, in front of friends and family. I loved my time in Ottawa.
On your first kick you ended up spraining your ankle and missing a few weeks, probably not how you imagined your debut going right?
Not at all, but luckily I had a good week in camp before that exhibition game so the coaching staff didn’t judge me on that punt, which wasn’t my best. It happened so fast and I ended up missing the first five games due to that high ankle sprain.
Looking back on your time with the Renegades, what sticks with you the most?
That I got to play on the same field that Rough Riders like Orville Lee, Rohan Marley, Ken Evraire, Terry Baker, Damon Allen and Darren Joseph played on. It’s funny because when I was in the 5th grade Damon Allen came to my school and talked to my class, 15 years later I’m teammates with Darren Joseph and playing against Damon Allen. Talk about surreal.
I’m not sure if you’re aware but according to CFL.ca you’ve got a career QB rating of -414.6 for attempting two passes that were both picked off. Is that an accurate reflection of your QB skills?’
LOL. Despite being picked off I think both worked out okay. The first pass was a fake punt call in Montreal. I rolled left and tried to throw the ball to the receiver but was picked off. It ended up working out okay as it yielded us about 18 yards in field position. The second attempt wasn’t a called fake punt, but came off a bad snap. I knew I couldn’t get the punt off without it being blocked, so I took off and ran for the first down marker. Initially I saw the chains and thought I could make it, only to realize that I was looking at the beginning of the chains and still had another 10 yards to go with a DB barreling down on me. I reacted quickly and threw towards a receiver, but was intercepted again. We still gained 25 yards so it wasn’t a total disaster.
As the punter you often end up as the last man between the returner and the end zone, what kind of things go through your mind when you know that you HAVE to make that open field tackle?
I loved it. Growing up playing safety I enjoyed contact and wasn’t shy of hitting. I always used to run down field quickly for two reasons. One was to get involved in the action and make some tackles and the other was because the returners were faster than me. Tackling the extremely fast guys in the open field was very difficult, so by running down field I could contain them in the holes before they’d break free.
Could you share with our readers who might not know, why you changed your number from 48 to 28?
When I was drafted the coaches asked me if I wanted to keep my college number and I said yes. I ended up changing numbers because we ran a fake field goal where it was a direct snap to our kicker Lawrence Tynes. I was the holder and ran down the line towards the right as Lawrence shovel passed me the ball. It worked great and I gained 18 yards before being knocked out of bounds on the 3 yard line. Unfortunately it was called back on a flag for an “ineligible receiver”. Back then players with numbers in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s had to report to the ref before the play. The coaching staff wasn’t aware and so the next day when I came to practice they told me my new number was 28 so that if we ever ran the fake again I’d actually be eligible.
What was your favourite fake or trick play to run?
The one I just mentioned because it was my play. What I mean by that is that I came up with it in practice and the coaches actually ran it.
Did you have any specific pre-game rituals or habits?
I’d always go for a walk about 4-5 hours before the game, come back and eat my pre-game meal.
What’s worse to kick in, rain or extreme cold?
Cold is hard because your hands get so dry and slick that the ball slips out of your hands. You end up constantly licking them to get some tack on them. Rain isn’t much fun either, but the ball boys usually do a good job keeping the balls dry. I always thought the worst were games in late October/early November where it was both cold and rainy.
Hang time > directional kicking?
I played college ball in the States so hang time was a big deal. I loved punting for hang time. I was blessed with a strong leg so I was able to get great air under the ball. I struggled with directional kicking throughout my career because I never actually had to do it in college. I always preferred punting for hang time as it was more natural for me.
Just how hard is it to angle a kick to a certain point on the field?
It’s hard because there are factors that people don’t think of such as the snap, blocking protection, wind, the rushers barreling at you and your steps have to be exact. In most CFL stadiums the wind swirls so the direction you see the flags moving on the field isn’t always accurate.
Is there one thing about being a kicker that most people probably don’t realize?
How athletic you need to be. Kickers and punters for the most part have to be athletic and not just able to kick a ball. Most kickers and punters in the CFL/NFL were great athletes growing up and played multiple position in high school.
Are you a fan of the rouge or is there some merit to the argument that it rewards failure?
I don’t think it rewards failure and it’s been part of our game for so long so I say keep it. Plus it’s one of those things that makes our game different from the NFL.
Since you retired what have you been doing for work?
I’m a licensed kinesiologist and the owner of Fleming Fitness. We’re a team of certified trainers and kinesiologists that specialize in injury rehab. We’re mobile, so we go into people’s homes and help them get set up on an exercise program designed for their needs.
Have you ever given any thought to coaching?
Nah, I try and help out kids as much as I can as a guest coach. That’s the extent of my coaching career.
Last year the Redblacks struggled to a 2-16 record, what do they need to address this off-season to ensure they improve next season?
First off, I think we were better than our record showed. We competed in a lot of games and lost some really tough, close games. Our defense was great. The offense struggled a bit, but with our new additions to OL and WR I think we’ll be better. Adding Jason Maas as the Offensive Coordinator was a great addition as well. He had a great CFL career as a player and it seems to be translating over into his coaching career. We were teammates in 2006 in Hamilton and he was one of the hardest working guys on the team by far. In terms of special teams I think Maher did a good job punting and kicking.
Thanks for your time and best of luck in your future endeavours!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Thanks so much for your time Marc and I look forward to seeing you at more Redblacks’ games in 2015!
The middle of the CFL’s off-seaosn is the perfect time to see how the 2002 Renegades season stacks up against the 2014 Redblacks inaugural year. Though the Renegades eked out two more wins, there’s an argument to be made that the Redblacks had the more entertaining first year.
Renegades lose at home against Saskatchewan, falling 30-27 in OT
Redblacks lose in Winnipeg 36-28
Renegades lose in Edmonton 40-24
Redblacks lose in Edmonton 27-11
Renegades win at home vs Winnipeg 25-24
Redblacks win at home vs Toronto 18-17
Renegades lose in Winnipeg 55-7
Redblacks lose in Hamilton 33-23
Renegades win at home vs Hamilton 38-37
Redblacks lose at home to Saskatchewan 38-14
Renegades lose in Toronto 24-8
Redblacks lose in Calgary 38-17
Renegades lose at home to Montreal 29-6
Redblacks lose at home to Edmonton 10-8
Renegades lose in BC 22-18
Redblacks lose at home to Calgary 32-7
Renegades lose in Hamilton 30-9
Redblacks lose in Montreal 20-10
Renegades lose at home to BC 28-4
Redblacks lose at home to BC 7-5
Renegades lose at home to Toronto 30-25
Redblacks lose in Saskatchewan 35-32 in double OT
Renegades win in Calgary 26-12
Redblacks lose at home to Montreal 15-7
Renegades lose at home to Calgary 26-22 in OT
Redblacks win at home vs Bombers 42 – 20
Renegades lose in Saskatchewan 29-11
Redblacks lose in BC 41 – 3
Renegades lose at home to Edmonton 37-34
Redblacks lose in Hamilton 16-6
Renegades lose in Toronto 29-12
Redblacks lose at home to Montreal 23-17
Renegades lose at home to Montreal 43-34
Redblacks lose at home to Hamilton 34-25
Renegades win in Montreal 26-25
Redblacks lose in Toronto 23-5
The Renegades went 4-14 with 356 Points For and 550 Points Against equaling a difference of -194 points
The Redblacks went 2-16 with 278 Points For and 465 Points Against equaling a difference of -187 points
The Renegades averaged 19.7 points a game, scoring more than 20 points in 10 games, and more than 30 in three
The Redblacks averaged 15.4 points a game, scoring more than 20 points in 5 games, more than 30 once, and more than 40 once
The Renegades gave up 30.5 points a game to the Redblacks 25.8 points per game and were *blown out seven times to the Redblacks five
*In this case I counted a blowout as losing by more than 14 points
Individual Stat Leaders:
Dan Crowley threw for 2697 yards with 16 TDs, 19 INTs and a 49.1% completion rate
Henry Burris throwing for 3728 yards with 11 TDs, 14 INTs and a 60.9% completion rate
Josh Ranek rushed for 689 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 5.4 yards per carry
Chevon Walker rushing for 458 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry
Jimmy Oliver made 82 catches for 1004 yards and 6 TDs
Marcus Henry making 67 catches for 824 yards and 2 TDs
Kelly Wiltshire made 86 tackles vs Jasper Simmons making 80
Gerald Vaughn made 3 INTs vs Brandyn Thompson making 4
Jerome Haywood had 6 sacks vs Justin Capicciotti having 11
Special Teams Tackles:
John Grace made 16 vs Jason Pottinger making 13
Renegades: LB John Grace, CFL All-Star
Renegades: 0 sellouts with an average crowd of 23,773
Redblacks: 9 sellouts with an average crowd of 24,500
I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Lonie Glieberman, one of the most notorious sports figures in Ottawa’s history. In 1991 Bernie Glieberman (Lonie’s father), bought the Rough Riders for $1 (assuming their $1,000,000 debt) and quickly installed Lonie as team president. Two years and several questionable moves later, the Gliebermans left town to start a CFL franchise in Shreveport after selling the Rough Riders to Bruce Firestone. In 2005 with the Renegades facing financial difficulties, the Gliebermans re-entered the picture, once more buying Ottawa’s team when no one else would. Lonie’s second go at being team president was again mired in controversy and only one year after buying the team Bernie walked away from it, forcing the Renegades to be suspended by the league.
RR: It’s 1991, why did you and your father decide to get into the CFL? Was it purely a sports move or was there another motive? (For example, real estate?)
LG: We thought buying the Rough Riders was a great opportunity as we were under the impression the CFL would expand. The team was obviously undervalued due to it’s debt and the league was buzzing at the time; Gretzky was involved with the Argos, Rocket Ismail was the highest paid player in pro football and all signs seemed to be pointing up.
What experience did you have that made you feel confident that you’d succeed as the president of football operations?
I didn’t have experience, but my Dad did. We looked at it as a global property, not just an Ottawa based one and I think that by treating it that way I did have some transferable skills from our other businesses. I was confident as the future looked bright, a big TV deal for the CFL seemed about to happen and that would’ve made all the difference. The reason the CFL is so strong and stable today is a direct result of the good TV deal they have.
Looking back, would you still have changed the R logo to the double flaming RRs knowing how much the single R meant to Ottawa’s football history?
Well, I still do like the double Rs, but from a traditionalist standpoint the white R is better. I guess you can compare it to Alabama’s A, that encapsulates football there and won’t ever change. At the time we wanted to try and breath some life into the franchise but maybe changing the logo wasn’t the best idea.
Which logo was your favourite?
The double Rs with flames. To be honest I really love the Renegades logo too, granted when you look at it you don’t feel the tradition, but it’s a modern, cool logo. The plain white R carries emotion, but I still think the double flaming Rs looks better if you look at it unemotionally.
Why did you fire Dan Rambo on the eve of the 1993 season?
The main thing to keep in mind here is that this was the early cell phone era. I was at a wedding and received information from an employee in the organization who went to my dad and our CEO John Ritchie, claiming that there was a rebellion happening; scouts were threatening to quit over dissension about the way Dan was running football operations. Our main scout, Mike Mcagnon, was out of cell reach so instead of waiting to talk to him I rushed and made a bad decision without verifying the facts. It was a rash decision based on not enough information. I thought it was a move I had to make but I’ll be the first to admit it was not the right call. I hold myself accountable and it’s my fault for not slowing down and getting all the information, including talking to Dan Rambo.
Glenn Kulka and Andrew Stewart infamously fought at practice and during the course of their brawl crashed into your office. How’d you react to/handle that situation?
Football is a very emotional game and you have to deal with the fact that tempers sometimes flare. Instead of happening outside as a kind of practice scuffle, this one happened inside and ended up crashing through a glass wall. That’s the only reason it ever got out and became a big news.
How many Rough Rider cheerleaders did you actually end up dating?
I came to Ottawa as a single, 23 year old guy and I have no problem admitting that I did what I think any other guy in my shoes would’ve done. I did what normal guys who are around a lot of single girls do. Unfortunately the story caught fire and went on but so be it. I certainly don’t think I did anything wrong.
Was the introduction of an NHL franchise to the Ottawa market in ’92 at all part of the rationale for bailing on Ottawa, and going to Shreveport?
No, that had nothing to do with it. There were two main reasons that we left. First, the stadium was a hinderance. I don’t blame the City of Ottawa as they were losing money running the facility, and it’s hard to maintain a stadium and make money, but they didn’t even have the funds to paint the seats in the stadium. The crew up-keeping the stadium was top notch, but there wasn’t enough dates or events to make it profitable or even break-even. The City did their best but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The second reason we left was because the CFL’s future at the time was in the US, expansion was the key to growing the league and keeping it afloat in a very difficult time.
The Rough Riders and Renegades have 124 years of history between them, do you still have any interesting mementos from either franchise?
I’ve got a couple of jerseys from the flaming R days and some old programs but that’s pretty much it. I’ve got more memories than mementos, to be honest. I have tons of old games on tape and like looking back at those, we played a number of really exciting games.
How were you treated by fellow owners in 1991-93 vs 2005?
There wasn’t a real difference other than the fact that in the early years we came into a league that was in the middle of a crisis. The CFL faced tremendous challenges in the ’90s and I think there was a bit more solidarity as people weren’t sure if the league would survive. Every decision we made could’ve caused the league to fold. In 2005, things were firmer and the league was on stabler ground.
What did you learn from running the Rough Riders that made you feel like things would be different with the Renegades in 2005?
More years of experience naturally makes you better at something. Fan support in early ’90s was just under 24,000 a game, which is similar to today’s 24,500 mark. Attendance wasn’t a challenge, but getting TV revenue was, so for us coming back, the TV deal was key.
After all the flak you took the first time around, why did you decide to come back to Ottawa in 2005, only to leave a year later?
The Renegades were well run but they ultimately didn’t succeed. We went from 4,000 season ticket holders to 10,000 in less than 24 hours by making things more affordable. On the field it was a fun year but we were decimated by losing so many free agents in the winter, that killed us. I give Joe Paopao a ton of credit for even winning 7 games. Off the field we felt that attendance was strong and if anything we were controversially run, definitely not poorly run. The Renegades didn’t end up being profitable but I didn’t run the team incompetently, just a little differently, and that’s not always a bad thing. There was a buzz around us and what would you rather have, a team that nobody cares about and that no one mentions, or one that is in the news, making the rounds at the water cooler?
In 2006, why not stick with the team for at least another year and attempt to sell, instead of just returning the keys and walking away?
I resigned before the decision was made to leave. My father and his partners felt like it would take at least another 14 million before the team would financially turn around and start making money, meaning we were still around 3-5 years away from breaking even. Even after the team broke even it would’ve taken an incredibly long time to recoup that 14 million in profits. That reality combined with other factors was why the decision was made. We were losing too much money, there was still no good TV deal for the league, the stadium itself was a huge issue, so much so the City later declared the South Side stands unsafe for occupancy, and my Dad felt nothing was going to change, so that made leaving the only course of action. I was surprised to be honest, but it was Dad’s call, he didn’t want to keep throwing good money after bad.
To this day the Renegade’s Mardi Gras promotion continues to be criticized. Can you explain the thought process that went into it?
Sure, it’s incredibly simple. 16-28 year olds are the CFL’s lost generation and we felt we needed to get their attention. In 2005, how many high school kids do you think owned Renegade jerseys? Not too many right? A big part of that is because players change teams so much that it’s hard for fans to develop loyalty. In the NFL guys like Marino, Manning, Brady, etc. mainly played for a single team throughout their entire career, so it’s easy for generations of fans to identify with the team. In the CFL look at a guy like Burris, how many teams has he played on? Can you name a single QB in the CFL who played their entire career on one team? It doesn’t make sense why teams don’t do more to keep their franchise players. In the CFL a guy has a bad year and he gets turfed because it’s a small league and teams sacrifice player development to win now, which leads to a high rate of player turnover. That’s not how you build a young fan base.
Getting back to the promotion, the 16-28 age bracket was always more focused on the NFL and we felt we had to turn the them from the NFL to the CFL. Forget the hullabaloo about the girls for the moment, the Mardi Gras promotion created social interaction, and millennials like social gatherings. More than anything the promotion was an attempt to create a social scene that would get the “lost generation’s” attention. The hope was that young males would go to the game for the promotion but then think to themselves, “Wow the football is actually exciting” and then come back for the next game because of the on field product. If they aren’t coming to the stadium in the first place how can we make more CFL fans?
People criticized the hell out of it but you can’t argue with result, attendance in the South Side upper deck, which wasn’t a place families went anyways, was sold out. The league hated it and unfortunately it had to be cancelled due to complaints. Ottawa radio shows were full of complaints but you can’t use those as science. Our actual customers might be happy, but they weren’t the ones calling in to complain.
There’s a quote that I believe strongly in that states: “It is better to be hated by some then loved by no one”. What the quote means is it very difficult for a brand to be loved by its customers if it plays it safe and is bland. Sometimes by being different you are going to piss people off but others will become passionate customers who love the brand. For example, Mount Bohemia (ski resort I run) doesn’t have any beginners runs nor do we ever groom the terrain. That pisses off beginner skiers and also the skiers who prefer groomed runs. However we’ve managed to create a very loyal fan base for those who like this brand position. That’s why Bohemia beat Mont Tremblant, Jay Peak and Sugarbush, all much bigger resorts than Bohemia, in a Powder (ski magazine) contest.
To sum up, the CFL’s biggest problem is that teenagers and young adults are indifferent to it. The Mardi Gras promotion at least got people talking about the team and into the stadium. It’s when people don’t care about your product that you’re in deep shit. Apathy is worse than hatred, no doubt. If a girl hates you it means she likes you but is pissed off. Mardi Gras was one of the ways we tried to fight that apathy.
Have you been back to Ottawa since the Renegades folded?
Yeah I came back briefly twice, on my way over to ski in Vermont. Whenever I’m in Ottawa I always go to Mamma Teresa’s Ristorante for the best Italian food in town and afterwards I hit up Stacy Kramer’s cookie shop for dessert.
What do you feel were your biggest accomplishments as a CFL owner?
Helping the CFL expand into the USA. People remember it darkly now, but at the time the league needed hope and US expansion represented that chance. People don’t mind losing money if there’s hope things will get better, but when there isn’t any hope people cut and run. The CFL creating teams in the US was a bold move and ensured the league survived and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Which team did you enjoy owning the most? The Rough Riders, Shreveport Pirates, or Renegades? Why?
Every franchise had their positives and I really enjoyed living in Ottawa. It’s a super healthy city with tons of bike trails and I loved going around on my bike. Also, it was an honour to be a part of the Rough Rider’s rich history but as an American, I was proud to actually be writing history from scratch with the Pirates. As someone who grew up watching the CFL, it was fun to go into schools and communities in Shreveport and talk with people to build a fan base from the ground up, creating 11,000 season ticket holders. That first game in the stadium is a night I’ll never forget.
During your time in the CFL the league went through three commissioners, Donald Crump, Larry Smith and Tom Wright. Was there any one of them that you particularly liked or disliked?
Crump was a super nice guy as was Tom Wright, though we often saw things differently. Larry Smith was great, he took charge in a very tough time and without him and John Tory, the league would’ve folded. Smith saved BC with new owners, kept teams together and helped get the ball rolling with US expansion. Those two guys don’t get a lot of credit but without their behind the scenes commitment, the CFL wouldn’t have made it. Smith takes a lot of flak for US expansion but it only failed because we didn’t have enough patience. US expansion produced a ton of really good players and some great games. It also showed that Canadian players were a lot better than people gave them credit for. Smith was a good leader and did a good job during his time as commissioner.
Do you think US expansion possible in the future?
I think it could work and greatly help the CFL but I don’t think they’re interested with their current success in Canada. If they were to do it, the best way to expand and to protect the league and it rules would be for the CFL to own the American division and maybe do an IPO to raise the capital. I know for certain that people in Shreveport really enjoyed the Canadian game and I think other cities in the US would too. Americans find the CFL way more wide open than the NFL and very interesting and exciting.
All that being said, I think the league’s happy where it’s at. With Buffalo’s ownership settled the NFL isn’t coming to Canada for awhile now so there’s no real external threats. At the moment the CFL is way too financially successful to take a risk like that.
Who was your favourite Rough Rider or Renegade?
There was lots of great players and people who came through both organizations but I always really liked Stephen Jones, because we had the Michigan connection. He was a great guy and a hell of a receiver. Another guy who was a great story is Johnny Scott. He showed up at a walk on try out in Shreveport for the Pirates, despite never having played college ball. He was raw but impressed the coaches enough to make the team as a back up and was starting by his 2nd year. He went on to have a great career and played for the Renegades in 2005. He’s a perfect example of a guy that without US expansion, never would’ve gotten a shot, and to me that kind of underdog story encompasses what the CFL is all about.
You were someone who always thought outside the box when running a franchise, especially in the Renegade era. What would you say was your least and most successful promotions?
The most successful would have to be the $99 season ticket promotion, where we gained over 6000 season ticket holders in a single day. It was a huge accomplishment for us as it raised out season ticket holder base to over 10,000 and more importantly, 30% of those who took advantage of the promotion had never been to a Renegades game. It was very successful at attracting new fans. As I mentioned before, Mardi Gras was controversial but not unsuccessful so I’m not sure what I’d say my least successful promotion was.
Do you understand why you are despised by some of Ottawa’s CFL fan base?
If we’re talking about us leaving in 2006, then that’s a fair criticism, but not so much for ’94, I mean, we’d turned things over to Bruce Firestone and been out of there for three years, so in my mind it isn’t fair to put that on us. But look, at the end of the day we didn’t succeed and whenever you fail people will be frustrated and disappointed. I’d rather have people dislike me and hate my guts, wrongly or rightly, because at least it shows they care about their team and are passionate. I always respect passion.
Would you ever feel comfortable attending a Redblacks game at TD Place?
Yeah, I really want to catch a game and nearly came up this year but was just too busy. The stadium looks beautiful and I think it’ll be even better in person. Probably best if I keep a low profile though, I wouldn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.
Do you still watch any CFL and if so who do you support?
I definitely still follow and watch the games that air on ESPN and ESPN 3. If I had to pick a team I’d say Ottawa for sentimental reasons, but otherwise I really like Saskatchewan. I love the green Rider Pride thing they got going on, and the story of a successful small market team with a passionate fan base is a narrative I like. But more than anything I’m happy to look at the big picture and see the league doing well.
What has Jeff Hunt done to make the Ottawa Redblacks so successful and stable compared to previous Ottawa franchises?
They’ve got a lot going for them. First off it’s a great group of local owners with a great new stadium and they’re building slow and steady, which is the right way to do it. Also seems like they’ve found the right balance between attracting families and young people. Hunt’s got a ton of experience running sports teams so that helps as well. Ownership’s got the right stadium deal and doesn’t have to rely only on ticket sales revenue, instead they’ve got money coming in from the condos, stores, restaurants, cinema and other things around the stadium. With so many revenue streams they’re built for long term success. Lansdowne was a challenge when I owned the team but now it’s re-done and incredible. The brilliant development of the site makes all the difference in creating a positive attitude in the community.
If you could say one thing to Ottawa’s football fans, what would your message be?
I’m really proud to be part of the CFL and to have owned the two Ottawa franchises. It was a great experience and I’m glad we helped the league thrive during it’s most difficult time. For better or worse I’m proud of my actions and had fun at the games. People need to remember that it’s okay to be different once in awhile.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday interview, I chatted with former Ottawa Renegade DB Korey Banks. Banks, an eight time CFL All Star, racked up 37 career interceptions, 22 sacks, 14 fumbles, 442 tackles, 7 touchdowns and two Grey Cup rings.
RR: As an American coming to Ottawa, what was your first impression of the city?
KB: It was unreal. It was my first time out of country and I was so excited. I entered the league in 2004 after being cut from the NFL. At first I hated living in a hotel without a vehicle and not really making any money, but I loved the atmosphere, vibe and people in the city. Ottawa was great to me man, I loved everything about it.
In 2005, your second year in the league, you quickly became a fan favourite, leading the league with 10 interceptions. How were you so successful so early in your career?
I actually predicted I’d get 10 picks in pre-season interview. My confidence was high because I knew I almost made it in the NFL and that as a young guy they’d throw the ball at me to test me. By the time QBs knew I could play, I already had 7 or 8 picks. After the season I had a few NFL teams come sniffing but they weren’t offering a lot of money up front and Ottawa put a big offer on the table, so I couldn’t pass it up.
A lot of people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?
I was too young into my career to really understand that part of the business. I didn’t look at it like other people, I just looked at it like there’s an owner and I’m a player and we had a mutual respect. If I saw him I’d say hello but not much else because I knew that to keep my job I had to perform at a high level.
When the Renegades folded in 2006, did you have any idea where you would end up?
I was getting calls from Ticats at the time but in the dispersal draft they traded with Saskatchewan, and I knew I wasn’t going there as they already had guys like Omar Morgan and Eddie Davis. BC really came out of nowhere but it was a good change for me, I went from from shit to sugar, last place to Grey Cup. I wasn’t used to losing and only ever had a losing season when I was in college at Mississippi State. Losing was killing me but the most disappointing thing about the Renegades folding was that us players felt like we were about to turn things around. When Ottawa went under the best players were scooped up but a lot of good friends lost jobs.
I’m sure every interception is satisfying but did you enjoy picking off certain QBs more than others?
I loved picking off Anthony Calvillo or Ricky Ray, when you got those guys, you knew you were really doing your thing. But now that I think about it, the most satisfying interceptions were when I got Dave Dickenson in practice, because he knew the all angles. Dickenson didn’t have the strongest arm but his ball placement was perfect.
Were you a big trash talker?
Early in career I was, but I did it to get noticed and make a name for myself. Where I’m from that’s how you got noticed. Later on in my career I matured and didn’t need to do it as much. I mean of course I still did it, but I didn’t waste time trashing talking guys I played three times a year. I knew to save it for the playoffs.
How did you pump yourself up before a big game?
I had a routine to do the opposite actually. I listened to slow music because I had to mellow myself out. I knew the next couple hours would be high pressure with me flying around so basically I had to meditate and get my mind right.
Who was the toughest receiver you ever had to cover?
I played against a lot of great wide receivers. I think I had tough match ups every week, going head to head with guys like Ben Cahoon, Jason Tucker, Milt Stegall, Geroy Simon, Fred Stamps, Nik Lewis, DJ Flick, and Jeremaine Copeland. Week after week they kept coming and I had to come in and set the tempo. Against guys like that you have to stick your fork in the ground, stand strong and make them play your way. If you blink they’ll beat you all day.
During your CFL career you played for Ottawa, BC and Winnipeg, where was the toughest stadium to play in and why?
I wouldn’t say it was the toughest atmosphere, but in Hamilton I only ever made a few plays. After some success against them early in my career with Ottawa, once I went to BC something about that stadium just threw me off a bit. In 10 years I think I only made 5 or 6 big plays there. I’m not saying I played poorly in Hamilton, just that I didn’t have great games there, never really got my mojo going.
Obviously this season things in Winnipeg didn’t work out as you hoped, what happened there and what are your plans for next season?
I don’t know what happened there, I always respected everyone and did what I needed to do. When I came into Winnipeg they gave me a big contract, hyped me up as an impact player and everyone seemed to be on the same page. I had a great camp, picking off 8 passes in practice, was a stand up teammate and always did what I was asked. It boiled down to the fact that Gary Etcheverry had a problem with me, which I never understood since we were working towards the same goal. One day in practice I asked him a question and he just nodded and jogged off without answering me. At the next meeting he starts it off by talking about how players shouldn’t question coaches, etc. etc. This is the same guy who doesn’t use a playbook, he just writes plays on the board and then erases them. As a player you feel uncomfortable as you have nothing to reference when studying. To Etcheverry players are just horses to be run. He’s a total joke and a clown. I’m not denying he’s got a good football mind but the man’s a clown and has no relationship with his players.
When the Bombers started playing games with me, putting me on the IR and stuff, the joke ended up on them as they were on the hook for my salary this season, and with the settlement I got to stay home this year and get paid. The whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth and made me hate the CFL. Well, actually not the CFL, just Winnipeg, I hope they never win anything again. As for my career I’m done with football.
Did you still keep in touch with any of the other guys you played with in Ottawa?
I still talk to Kyries Hebert, Jason Armstead and I recently met Quincy Colemanfor some drinks. I catch up with Brad Banks once in awhile as well.
Why did you wear #24?
When I first came to Ottawa the equipment manager gave it to me. I got off to a good start using it and everyone in every pro league wearing #24 was balling, so I decided to roll with that.
What piece of football advice would you offer to young players looking to take their game to the next level?
You gotta ask yourself before you think about a career as a football player, do you have anything else to fall back on? Don’t just go into it wanting to be a football player, since you can’t control that. You’ve gotta understand the game and your opponent and then you’ll do well. If you don’t know the game you’re competing on athletics.
When CFL fans hear the name Korey Banks, what would you like them to think of or remember?
I’d like them to remember a guy who played the game at a great level. When a new DB breaks into the CFL and has sustained success, not a flash in the pan one year wonder, but success at a high level for a number of years, I’d like them to say “Man that guys reminds me of Korey Banks”. That would truly be satisfying.
Thanks for your time Korey and best of luck to you in the future!
Today we sit down with former Ottawa Renegades offensive lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek. Drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 and quickly going on to establish himself as a reliable starter throughout his 10 year career, Mike played in Ottawa from 2002-2004 before winning a Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 2007.
RR: You played for the Renegades from 2002-2004, what are some of your favourite memories of that time?
MBM: Ask any of the players, coaches, GMs, or front office staff, anybody at all who was a part of that Renegade family, and they’ll tell you that their favourite memory of Ottawa was the people. We came together as a family like no other team that I was on in my 20 years playing the game. I’m still good friends with some of those guys and even our children are best friends . We forged a bond that couldn’t have been built anywhere except on an expansion team in a foreign city, lead by Coach Pao Pao, Kani Kuahi and their beautiful wives Dottie and Gay who brought all of us “Renegades” together.
Why did you choose to sign in Ottawa as a free agent?
Playing with Winnipeg was great and I had just finished my 3rd season in the CFL and 2nd as a starter, but I felt that being on an expansion team would give me more job security so that I could grow and get better as a football player. That, combined with the fact that I’m from Toronto and wanted to be closer to home without being too close, made it an easy choice. Ottawa is a beautiful city that I may still retire in and live there again one day.
What kind of challenges does an expansion team face that a normal team wouldn’t?
Football is the ultimate team sport and expansion teams are just a bunch of “Renegades” thrown together on a roster – they aren’t a team. The X’s and O’s are the same as everyone else but the guys don’t know each other yet.
Many people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?
I went back to Winnipeg in 2005 so I didn’t see the entire circus but I will say that the first act was enough for me.
Who was the toughest defensive player you were lined up against?
I’d say there were three: Joe Fleming, Johnny Scott and Cameron Wake
Did you have a favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?
Yeah, the Rogers Centre. I’ve won a high school city championship, a Vanier Cup, and a Grey Cup in the it, plus it’s in my home town, so you’d think I’d love the place but I don’t. It feels like you are playing in someone’s back yard: no fans, no atmosphere, no passion.
What was your typical pre-game meal?
Half a chicken with two cups of pasta and a big salad….which I would throw up before every game.
Run blocking > pass blocking?
Of course, you shouldn’t even need to ask
Describe your perfect day off while living in Ottawa.
Bike ride from Barrhaven down to the Byward Market, stopping at the Canal Ritz for a rest and refreshment. That’s the best drive/ride there is in Ottawa in my opinion.
Once I was feeling refreshed I’d continue down to the market , maybe hit up a used book store, eat some delicious Lebanese cuisine and find another patio. Later on someone would have to come pick me up and take me home because all that bike riding and refreshing makes one tired.
Who was the funniest guy you ever played with?
Is the a special reason why you wore #67?
Many reasons. First off it’s the last year the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Cup. Secondly it’s slimming; the 6 gives the number the girth that a big man like me needs but the 7 brings the eyes in to the waist line, the number really accentuates my V shaped body haha. The worst and final reason is that it’s two away from 69 (me and you baby).
Now that you’ve retired, what are you doing for work?
I’m a Certified Financial Planner, which is what I originally wanted to be when I grew up, football just got in the way. In fact, I started my career in finance while playing in Ottawa, I was sure they would cut me and wanted to be ready to move on once they did. Thankfully I’ve never been cut.
Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?
Do you still keep in touch with any former teammates, and if so, who?
Alex Gauthier, Marc Parenteau, George Hudson and Val St’Germain are some of my best friends, our wives all get along and our kids are the same age. It was such a blessing to come to Ottawa and meet such good people. I also keep in touch with Greg Bearman too, but he doesn’t have a wife and kids. I chat with Gay Kuahi on Facebook at least once a week.
What piece of advice would you offer any high school or university lineman looking to go pro?
Don’t look to go pro, just work hard at whatever you are going to do, or else it isn’t worth doing. If you focus on something you love to do the “pros” will find you. I was quite a fat, shy kid with low self esteem and football gave me a vehicle where my size finally was an advantage – as I WAS athletic. All the faster smaller kids who used to call me names and then run away in the school yard had nowhere to run to on the gridiron.
O-line coaches in junior ball have their work cut out for them because quite simply the kids aren’t strong enough to do things ‘right’. Trusting a coach is the best thing any athlete can do, especially when you are learning to play o-line. Everyone knows what the QB or RB has to do but no one knows what the O-line does or why they do it until they play the position. It’s quite humbling learning a game you thought you knew all over again.
For those looking to get better at football, or anything else: trust your coach/mentor, come up with a plan, and then do what you said you were going to do. The single best piece of advice I ever got (and it didn’t pertain to football at the time) was SHUT UP AND WORK.
Thank you very much Mike for a hell of an interview! Take care and we hope to see you in Ottawa again soon!