Argos' Matt Black caps roller-coaster season with Grey Cup appearance - InfoNews

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Argos' Matt Black caps roller-coaster season with Grey Cup appearance

Montreal Alouettes' Ernest Jackson (9) is tackled by Toronto Argonauts' Matt Black during first half CFL football action in Montreal, Friday, August 11, 2017. For a horrible six days in August, Matt Black peered into the future and saw fog. After playing all eight of his CFL seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, the 32-year-old defensive back had been released and his football future was in doubt. What did seem certain: he wouldn't be wearing the double blue of his hometown Argos.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
November 26, 2017 - 6:00 AM

OTTAWA - For a horrible six days in August, Matt Black peered into the future and saw fog.

After playing all eight of his CFL seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, the 32-year-old defensive back had been released and his football future was in doubt. What did seem certain: he wouldn't be wearing the double blue of his hometown Argos.

"I definitely thought my time in Toronto was done, and that was a tough pill to kind of swallow," Black said.

Turned out the poor taste didn't linger long, because on the eve of the Grey Cup, Black stood on the TD Place Stadium turf talking about the roller-coaster season that brought him to the CFL's biggest game.

"It's been a lot of lows, a lot of highs, but that's why we play the game, right?" Black said.

Black, who was born and raised in Toronto, was drafted by the Argonauts in 2008. He was about to return from a groin injury in August, and had yet to play a game for new coach Marc Trestman and his staff, when he was unceremoniously released. The perfunctory press release announcing the move sent ripples of shock around the league.

He watched the team's next game — a 41-24 loss to Calgary on Aug. 3 — from home.

"It's a unique experience that I haven't had before in my career, the first game that I've really watched not being part of the franchise for the last nine years," Black said. "It's hard to pinpoint how that felt.

"But the stars aligned, things happened the way they did and I'm happy and honoured to be a part of this group of men."

What happened was safety Jermaine Gabriel got injured in the Calgary game, the Argos called up Black and invited him back. No hard feelings.

"You do yourself a disservice as a player, not thinking the coaches and the GMs are trying to get better at every turn," Black said.

One of the league's all-around good guys, Black works tirelessly with the Argos' Huddle Up anti-bullying initiative. Last year, he was presented with the league's Jake Gaudaur Veterans' Award, which honours the player that best demonstrates the attributes of Canada's veterans: strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and contribution to Canadian communities.

While he'd love to cap this rocky season with a second Grey Cup ring — the Argos won in 2012 — Black wants it even more for the teammates who've seen their own share of struggles. He mentioned S.J. Green, who was traded from the Montreal Alouettes after a serious knee injury, and Bear Woods, who was cut by Montreal during this season's training camp.

He talked of Johnny Sears Jr., Rico Murray, and Cassius Vaughn, all of whom have never won a Grey Cup. He spoke about Gabriel, a fellow Toronto native whose circuitous route to the CFL included working as a janitor in a mall because he had no money for university.

"Jermaine Gabriel, a guy who works so hard and has done so much in his life to get to this point," Black said.

"You want that almost vindication for those guys, for them to have their name on that trophy. It means a lot to me for those guys to get it."

The Argos are considered underdogs to mighty Calgary, but Black said it's been that way all season.

"From free agency, guys didn't want to sign, media across the league laughed at us, said 'This team isn't going to be anything, they don't have a GM, they don't have a coach in free agency, how is this organization going to run?'

"But look at a guy like S.J. . . Bear Woods. Cassius Vaughn. Rico Murray. All guys counted out by other teams, across the league, media, everyone doubting this team, this franchise, this organization," Black said. "It's just built a resolve in us that that stuff doens't matter, really doesn't matter to us. We're here to work and fight tooth and nail for everything that we' ve earned."

Black finished the regular season with 22 defensive tackles, plus three on special teams. He came up big in a September win over Edmonton, hauling down Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly to squash a late Edmonton comeback.

Offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl is the only longer-tenured Toronto player, having spent a season on the practice roster before Black was signed.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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