As one of only three original players still with the franchise, many consider Antoine Pruneau to be the face of the Ottawa Redblacks.
Pruneau’s U Sports career was spent with his hometown University of Montréal Carabins. He played a variety of positions in the secondary, moving between defensive back, linebacker and safety depending on each week’s matchup.
A two time All-Canadian, Pruneau also scored two special teams touchdowns — one on a kickoff return and one on a missed field goal.
The third Redblack on 3DownNation’s CFL top 100 list arrived in Ottawa after being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft. How that pick came to the Redblacks is worth a refresher.
The pick originally belonged to Montreal, who likely would have used it to take the local kid. After general manager Marcel Desjardins flipped disgruntled quarterback Kevin Glenn to the B.C. Lions for the fifth overall pick, Desjardins packaged the fifth and tenth selections together and sent them to the Als for the fourth and thirteenth picks.
The deals culminated in Pruneau wearing Ottawa’s red and black instead of Montreal’s red, white, and blue.
To say that the trade worked out well for the Redblacks would be an understatement. Not only did Pruneau make an immediate impact on the field — becoming a starter halfway through his rookie year — but he also integrated seamlessly into the Ottawa community.
Pruneau is an outgoing, bilingual player who welcomes the chance to chat with fans at the various community events he attends. He’s also the Godfather of Ottawa’s French Mafia, a club that consists of the team’s francophone players and those Americans willing to learn French (ie. Ryan Lindley, also known as Steve Vachon).
As much as the off-the-field stuff matters, Pruneau’s biggest impact has come between the hash marks. In 93 career games, the six-foot, 200-pound safety has amassed 321 tackles, 56 special teams tackles, four sacks, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown.
Pruneau was a key member of the 2016 Grey Cup-winning squad and a big reason why the team made three trips to the Grey Cup in four seasons. He remains one of the top defensive Canadians in the CFL and continues to be a leader both on and off the field.
The 30-year-old struggled with injuries in 2019, missing nine games with a broken hand and, later, a broken foot. Ottawa dearly missed its play-making safety, allowing 33-plus points in six of the team’s last ten games.
Now that he’s once again fully healthy, Pruneau figures to play a large role on Paul LaPolice’s team going forward. The veteran will be leaned on to continue generating splash plays on the field, while mentoring the younger players on the roster like 2020 first-round pick Adam Auclair.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DL John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions