The Toronto Argonauts are feeling pretty good about their chances in Sunday's Grey Cup. How good?
"Going into this year I knew how important this game, this season was going to mean to this organization if we could get to this game," said fullback Jeff Johnson during a downtown pep rally attended by around 2,500 fans on Tuesday night. "It's an unbelievable feeling and it's just, you know, it couldn't happen at a better time for our organization and, you know what? It's the 100th Grey Cup, this is it, there's no words, nothing can be said. This is it. Emotions are going to fly on Sunday and we're going to win this."
In a week where coaches and players go out of their way to avoid giving their opponents bulletin-board material that's as close as you'll get to a bold guarantee.
After the Eastern Division Final, Chad Owens used the word "destiny" to describe his team's path to this point. He's not the only one who thinks this Argos team is, simply put, meant to be here.
"When the building blocks started to be put together in the off-season and you started to see the right things put in place you knew there was a chance that we would play in the Grey Cup and now here we are, and it's all coming to fruition," said Johnson, a Toronto native who has spent 11 of his 13 CFL seasons in Double Blue.
Ricky Foley fought back tears after the win in Montreal on Sunday. It was two years ago that the defensive end made the tough decision to sign with his hometown team – Foley is from nearby Courtice, Ontario – instead of the B.C. Lions, who gave him his CFL start.
"I never played high school football before so I never had a pep rally or anything like that so it's pretty crazy," said Foley gesturing to the crowd. "I can only imagine what it's going to feel like when we win the Cup, how crazy it's going to be."
Notice how he went with "when" and not "if"?
You can't blame Foley, who's as quotable as they come, and Johnson for getting caught up in the moment. The fact a couple thousand people turned up to a pep rally, fighting traffic during the city's notorious rush hour, is no small feat. The Argos have waited awhile to gain the spotlight in this bustling metropolis.
General manager Jim Barker, the head coach during the two previous seasons, was beaming as he gazed out into the throng of fans on Tuesday.
"I didn't really expect this kind of turnout to be honest with you, but it's fabulous to see," said Barker, who was the voice of the club's radio advertisements when he signed on as coach two years ago.
Back then the club didn't really have any big-name players to be the face of the franchise. Now they have quarterback Ricky Ray, who came over in a one-sided deal engineered by Barker in the off-season. And Chad Owens, picked up from Montreal by Barker for a draft pick before the 2010 campaign, is the East Division Most Outstanding Player.
"I am surprised," admitted Foley when asked about the turnout. "This is what we've been working for, what the organization has been working for, this kind of support. We just got to keep the ball rolling. The city is alive with Grey Cup fever."
There is a concern that the excitement will distract the Argos and make them lose focus. It's an issue they're well aware of.
"After this coach will lock us down," said Foley. "Players will lock things down. Forget about the festivities, forget about the excitement, we're here to win. It's nice to have this tonight. Tomorrow's the first day of practice, we go, we get focussed and we do what we have to do on Sunday."