CFL

Hogan: At least three will win back-to-back Grey Cups

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Mike Hogan
11/22/2013 4:10:39 PM
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For at least three participants in the 101st Grey Cup game, a dream will be realized -- back to back championships.

It doesn't matter which team wins. At least three members of last year's Toronto Argonauts will become repeat winners. If the hometown Riders prevail, Ricky Foley, Tristan Black and Ejiro Kuale will win another ring. If the visiting Ticats break the hearts of an entire province, Evan McCullough, Brandon Isaac, Joel Reinders, and defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer will once again be champions.

For Isaac and Kuale, it's a particularly sweet opportunity. Isaac was released by the Argos early in the season and quickly signed in Hamilton, while Kuale, who signed with Montreal in the off-season, was let go by the Alouettes before finding his way to Regina in September. It's a chance for both players to end a frustrating season on an incredible high.

"I've thought about it a little bit," Kuale told TSN.ca "I've talked about it with Ricky and Tristan and it's pretty exciting to be in this position again."

The fourth-year linebacker/rush end sees an incredible similarity between Toronto's run last year to the path the Riders find themselves on right now.

"I was talking about it with Foley," said the LSU product. "We had the home playoff game like in Toronto, we had to travel to the East Final, this year we had to travel to the West Final, now we've got the home Grey Cup. The mood feels the same."

Isaac also relishes the opportunity to go back to back, and had a great experience at this week's East Breakfast when he got to revisit an old friend.

"I went and looked at the Grey Cup and saw my name on it," said the linebacker. "I told the guys they have the opportunity to put their names on it as well."

It would be an incredible way to end a season that started out with his stunning release.

"Coming into the season, I prepared myself," said the South Carolina product. "I was named captain, took that to heart, thought it was a big step in my life. It was taken away from me. I was down, frustrated, shocked, upset at myself and upset with others."

"Then I got an opportunity to come over here," Isaac continued. "I kept on battling and battling and now I'm here at the Grey Cup with the team that gave me the opportunity to play football."

Evan McCullough brought versatility to the Ticats when he arrived from the Double Blue, but he didn't bring his Grey Cup ring to Regina. That's safely tucked away back at his home in the United States.

The starting defensive halfback told TSN.ca that he hasn't thought about the rare opportunity to win consecutive championships.

"I haven't because it really hasn't hit me yet," said McCullough "To be a part of the 100th Grey Cup champions and then get a chance to go back for the 101st is awesome, it's amazing. A lot of people don't get to experience that, and I get a chance to do that at a young time in my career."

Ricky Foley experienced the absolute high last year of winning a championship, doing it for his hometown team in his home stadium, and also playing well enough to be named the game's Outstanding Canadian. Since the time he put pen to paper with Saskatchewan, he's thought about the opportunity to accomplish what may occur on Sunday.

"I thought about it when I came here," said the native of Courtice, Ontario. "At the same time you don't want to be focused on back-to-back, you want to be focused on executing and playing a good game."

Foley left an area of the country where the CFL struggles to gain attention at times, to play in the heartland of the league. He has trouble visualizing what it will be like to run through the tunnel Sunday in front of Rider Nation.

"I can't even imagine it," Foley told TSN.ca "Last year was pretty special and it's hard to compare to that because I had so much family and friends in the crowd, it was unbelievable. But this is the Mecca of football in Canada. I don't know what to expect, but I'm just going to enjoy it."

Kuale shares Foley's fondness for the Rider faithful.

"I get goosebumps every time I walk out on the field with the team or I'm on the sidelines," said a smiling Kuale. "It feels like when I was back at LSU. I felt we had the best fans in the world and that's the way I feel about the Rider fans."

It's rare that home teams win a Grey Cup game. It's even more unusual to have a player be on teams that win in consecutive years on their home field. Quarterback Jarious Jackson accomplished the rare feat last year, after winning a ring in 2011 with the BC Lions. Before that, members of the 1946-47 Argos were the last players to win back-to-back championships in front of home fans.

The three Riders are hoping they can join that exclusive club. Their former teammates on the Ticats would prefer the feat remains a rarity.

Norwood Argos Tiger-Cats Isaac (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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