Former Ticats finding success as Argonauts

They say the best revenge is living well but for a couple of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats making the all-star team and playing the East Division Final for the right to go to the Grey Cup will do just fine.

Defensive backs Rico Murray and Cassius Vaughn were named as standouts in the East Division after helping lead the resurgent Toronto Argonauts to a 9-9 record this season. On Nov. 19, the Argos will host the winner of Sunday’s semi-final between the Ottawa Redblacks and Saskatchewan Roughriders. It will be the team’s first home post-season date since 2013.

Murray played in that game too but as a member of the Ticats, his first of four years with the club. He was a generally excellent, versatile defender for Hamilton – he was an East all-star in 2014 as well – but missed time due to injury every season. When he reached free agency for a second time last February, the Ticats let him walk and he was quickly scooped up by the Argos.

“The issue wasn’t ability, it was availability,” said Murray, who played in all 18 games for the first time in his career in 2017. “One of the big things with coach Marc Trestman is that he wants his guys to be fresh on game day and the way that he monitored the veteran players helped a lot of guys this season.”

The change of scenery helped Vaughn too. He started for Hamilton just a few days after being signed in August of 2016 and played in nine games but finished the season on the practice roster after struggling at times. The team re-signed him in January – much to the chagrin of fans on social media – only to cut him again in May.

“From my understanding, it was just somebody in the building that just liked my game at that time, which I have no problem with,” Vaughn said this week. “I probably wasn’t good enough to play at that time.”

That said, it didn’t take him long to find a new home – he signed with the Argos the next day – and it didn’t take much convincing.

“My choice to even pick Toronto is because I wanted to beat Hamilton down four times a year,” he said. “That was my only reason, so I could smash them, so I could pick off Zach Collaros, play against Luke Tasker. Everybody. That was the only way I could express myself about the situation at that time.”

The signing of multiple former Ticats by the Double Blue – they also signed veteran offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski after his release before shipping him to the Riders – is hardly a coincidence. Assistant general manager Spencer Zimmerman, who was in charge of personnel decisions for much of the off-season before the team hired Jim Popp, got his CFL start as a football operations staffer with the Ticats.

Former Hamilton offensive coordinator Tommy Condell also served as a personnel consultant last winter before taking over as receivers’ coach under Trestman.

“It has been truly enjoyable. It’s been educational on multiple levels,” Condell said. “I’m truly grateful, I think that’s the best word to use.”

Once responsible for much of the Ticats’ offensive game planning and play-calling, Condell has a lesser role under Trestman and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady but has used the opportunity to expand his coach repertoire.

“Marc has had a tremendous career and I get to see how he does things, how he manages his time, what he’s watching,” Condell said. “To see it from the nascent stages, how he’s developed the culture and then come to fruition, it’s been a humbling experience.”

Much has been made of Condell’s sudden departure from the Ticats before the 2015 season but he says that’s ancient history now.

“I don’t say this meanly but I don’t care what they do. I just wanted to make sure we beat them and win the East and that’s what I’ve been focussed on,” Condell said. “I know a lot of coaches use all these clichés and some of them don’t but I’m really exited about where I’m at. I’m around good people.”

Both Murray and Vaughn speak positively of their time in Hamilton as well. Murray wrote a long thank you text to the Ticat front office to express his appreciation and Vaughn says he has being hearing from Hamilton fans after his excellent season.

“I remember when Hamilton fans were tweeting at me ‘Oh Cassius, you suck.’ Now they’re tweeting me like ‘I don’t know why we did it,” Vaughn says laughing. “I bet you don’t.”

But given how well his season has gone and with the playoffs on the horizon, Vaughn says he’s moved past the ill will.

“I understood myself more as a man after I left that situation. They gave me the opportunity to see this game and if they hadn’t done yet, you wouldn’t see the finished product this year,” he said. “I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful they put the edge back on me.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1161 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

40 Comments on Former Ticats finding success as Argonauts

  1. Oh man I am glad Bob The Caretaker and Mitchell are standing up for and behind Austin and the Grey Cup drought continues,The Leafs,Raptors and Jays will all Win championships before the Cats hell with Austin here with Mitchell I might even throw in the Bills and Browns keep paying for those tickets Suckers oops I meant Fans.

  2. Oh please there are dozens of ex ticats still playing on other teams that is the nature of a salary cap league. Just as the cats have players from other teams signed as free agents.

  3. I have to admit to being one of those happy to see Vaughan leave. He was awful in the black and gold. Good for him in turning it around. Garney is right. Posters trying to hang this on Austin don’t understand the way the salary cap works.

  4. Noodles Romanoff // November 10, 2017 at 9:43 pm //

    Not trying to hang anything on Austin but I find it frustrating that the first full season this player has is the first season he’s not a Ticat.

  5. Stuff like this just drives the blade deeper and deeper into a disappointing 2017 season…especially Vaughn who was just plain horrible when he was with Hamilton. Maybe it’s me but it sure does seem when a TC player goes to another team they just light it up but when a player from another team comes to the TC’s they just plain suck (or get injured before they even get started).

    • Question is … how many that are lighting it up are gone because of $$, how many disappeared like Bulcke and how many were used badly?

      • Cat Fan. You think that losing Brian Bulcke hurt the team??? Really?

        • My point is it is more complicated than one or two examples.

          Bulcke is an example of a player going to another team that *didn’t* light it up.

          Going by what it “Seems” without checking can lead to silliness like thinking Calvillo was productive/won a GC in his first year in Montreal.

    • Philski. Well remember the feeling. You’re going to experience it again when you get your wish and Collaros is playing for the Argos.

      • No Abacus my friend…that won’t happen. Collaros peaked during the “Summer of ’15″…small blip on the screen for success. We, myself included, were seduced to dizzying heights thinking that he would continue where he left off when he came back from his torn ACL…didn’t happen…not even close. A shadow of his former self as a matter of fact. Like I commented before, he’ll kick around for a couple of seasons and then fade into the QB sunset…only to become part of the Maas and Printers lore of TC’s paying a king’s ransom for a QB…only to have them fizzle out and disappoint.

  6. Ed Gainey’s a different story. Pretty good defender who got his feet crossed on the Ellingson touchdown that killed 2015, and punched a sure ticket out of town from KA. How’s he done this year? Some of these deals weren’t cap issues. Some were about health, and some about retribution

  7. Front office is the problem. Way too much drama. Bob Young needs to stand up. Kent Austin needs to step down amd Eric Tillman needs to be fired.

    • Only drama is what is being posted on here. Explain your so called drama? Art Briles? That again was fan and media interference. Austin stepping down? One and the same! So other than fans bitching because of a bad start and the team not making the play-offs, players and coaches unhappy about the lack of success what drama are you referring to?

    • Agree. Last time TC’s embarrassed themselves to this degree was the Ballard years – but at least the “overpaid bums” won a GC in 1986. Austin should have been tossed at the end of the 2016 season when he added “attempt to slug an official” to his rap sheet.

  8. I’ll take the guys we have now over Vaughn, Murray and Gainey. Out of those 3 the only one I liked was Murray, who, as the article states was hurt alot.
    Lets remember the secondary has been the Cats biggest problem for a couple of seasons now. Looks like they fixed it. Hopefully all come back.

  9. The Ti-Cats are dysfunctional and also showed during 2017 that they are classless. Time to clean the slate top to bottom. Jones gets way too much credit. Team was 0-8 – if won a game would be better. Under Jones were 6-4 with 2 of the wins against an awful Montreal team. Jones’ coaching was still amateurish with terrible decision-making. Blew leads in games needed to win. Austin no longer the Head Coach but makes same money as previously – ridiculous. Mitchell an embarrassment. What are you doing Bob? You say you are the Caretaker then CARETAKE!

    • Z3Cat those are your opinions not that of all fans. You also have zero to go off of to make those statements. If it wasn’t for Bob this team wouldn’t exist. If it wasn’t for Austin at coach working out of a college stadium for most of 2 season we would have been in the play offs the last 4 seasons and to 2 Grey Cups, one of which in my opinion we won. Also if it wasn’t for the front office staff we wouldn’t have the talent we currently do. And don’t go saying this team hasn’t got any talent. We could have gone 10 and ) in our last 10 games if not for some poor judgment by a new QB and coach new to the league and some bumbling by the officials. I hate when fans seem to think they are speaking for all of us because you aren’t just as these are my opinions Also what does it matter to you or anyone else about what Kent Austin is being paid? It doesn’t effect the teams cap? SMH!

    • Two wins against an awful Montreal, two wins against Western teams (in BC, where a win is a long time back and the hot team of the time, Winnipeg) and a win each against the Eastern playoff teams.

      Jones isn’t perfect but just like the claims that the team had no talent where cleaning all the players out was needed, focusing on only Montreal or the blown games IMO is misleading.

  10. In Vaughn’s defense he was asked to learn a lot in a short time and without benefit of a training camp. But still, his coverage skills were horrible, and this is a guy who had been around the NFL for several years. Perhaps Argo coaching saw something they were able to adjust in him too.

    The other side to this — we keep Vaughn or Murray (who I too liked) and maybe we don’t see Leonard emerge as a starter, or pick up Unamba after the season is under way. Kanneh missed a good part of the year but maybe we wouldn’t have signed him either, and he was a great fit at SAM the final few games.

    Not sure these former Cats would have helped the 0-8 edition of the team anyway.

    • Well-said msd! Vaughn was “thrown into the fire” so to speak but his time here helped him to learn the game – certainly a benefit to the Argos who continued to develop his skills. It took our defense some time and a change in coaches but they certainly ended the season playing well with new players who likely wouldn’t have been in black and gold had players like Murray been kept.

  11. Zimmerman has turned out to be a great Asst GM

  12. Nice of Vaughn to finally admit that he wanted to smash his former teammates as some act of revenge. I think Terrence Toliver realized that on the first play of the season when Vaughn dove at his knee and knocked him out for the year.

    • “Smash” is one thing…aiming at the knee and possibly endangering another player’s career is another. You suck Vaughn…and so does your team. Predict the Roughies will take you out in the EF before the 150 or so fans that will bother to show up.

  13. Let’s face it some moves made were clearly Austin having no patience and pulling the trigger and sending guys packing some were cap issues

  14. If the reason condell left was because of Austin’s behaviour then shame on young and Mitchell to allow quality personell to leave because of one person power struggle

    • Sometimes you get along with your boss and most times you don’t! Move on!

    • Pretty obvious that’s what happened, eh? TC’s should have dumped Mitchell and Austin and kept Condell. “Family matter”…yeah, sure, right Austin. Better call Geppetto because you’re doing your best Pinocchio.

      • If Condell stuck with a pass happy offense, I’m not sure I’d want to have kept him.

        If Steinauer had been made HC, it would have been interesting but that’s water under the bridge.

      • Philski. Seems to me that the Argos did not make Condell HC Could be a reason. And the family matters quote came from Condell not Austin. But I take your point that we are not getting the full story.

  15. Sea of Dead // November 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm //

    “I’m really excited about where I’m at. I’m around good people.” A quote from Tommy Condell with the Argos. That and his continued silence regarding his time with coach Austin says it all. Just one more reason for KA to go!

  16. Some of you guys are clueless these moves had nothing to do with salary cap Austin thought Murray was hurt to often He states that himself if you read the article if you are even able it was not ability it was availability.The Argos saw value in Vaughn not in the secondary but moved him to linebacker good talent observation on their part and Condell had fallout with Austin what a surprise kind of backs up Drew’s Story about Guy’s not wanting to come back around Austin, but you naïve Fans keep forking out your cash for a average Team and average is being kind.

    • Vaughn playing LB is why I am confused about how he made the all star team as a DB. I take it he switched at some point?

  17. No he has played at the linebacker spot all season started week one against Hamilton at the same spot as he finished last week against Lions,But I noticed they Have hebert,Ball,Dean and Vaughn who all play Linebacker and only four from the secondary Leonard,Mincy,Murray and Pruneau.

  18. Ticat Mike // November 12, 2017 at 6:10 pm //

    Both guys were not that great with the CAts. Rico Murray was so so….beaten often. Was it him? the coaching? the schemes? Who knows. ONe thing for sure. He is on a team with bona fide great coaching.

  19. Amen on a team with bona fide great coaching and Hamilton has Austin and the drought keeps going way to go Mitchell !

  20. Granted, a telling brain-cramp against Riders (and out of the lineup since). Still, Johnny Sears has also added the team’s success this year.

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