There isn’t a Saskatchewan Roughrider who’s had more to do with the fortunes of the team over the last four years than Ed Gainey.
Of all the personnel finds that Chris Jones recruited to the Riders, it’s hard to argue that any of them have had more of an impact on the green and white.
Still around from that first Jones-led recruiting class going into the 2016 season, Gainey has proven to be a fine example of misfit toy who fell out of favour elsewhere but has fit right in with the Riders.
The 30-year-old from Winston-Salem, N.C. played his collegiate years just a 10-minute drive up the road at Appalachian State University.
Overlooked by the NFL, Gainey was brought in by the Montreal Alouettes in 2012.
Two years of spot duty with Montreal and another two with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats led few to believe that Gainey would ever amount to more than an average defensive back in the Canadian Football League.
It really wasn’t until Jones left the Edmonton Football Team eight days after winning the 2015 Grey Cup and joined Saskatchewan — having been handed the keys to the team’s football operations department — that Gainey’s career would see a major turning point.
Part of a re-building defence that took its lumps in 2016, the final season at the old Taylor Field, Gainey opened the new Mosaic Stadium in 2017 with a thundering bang in mid-August of that summer.
A skeptical capacity crowd of 33,350 showed up to see their 2-4 Roughriders face the back-end of a home-and-home with the 5-2 B.C. Lions one week after the Leos had beaten the Riders soundly at BC Place.
Keep in mind that Saskatchewan had been 12-39 since Darian Durant’s season-ending injury in the 2014 Banjo Bowl up until that Sunday night in August of 2017.
The Lions, on the other hand, were coming off a home playoff win the year before and a nice start to the season.
Gainey exploded that night, becoming the ninth player in CFL history to bag four interceptions in one game. He also added a fumble recovery.
The Riders would smash the Lions 41-8 and go on to snap a two-year playoff drought that season and have been in Grey Cup contention ever since. New Mosaic Stadium got its coming out party that night.
Gainey would go on to lead the league in interceptions that year and make the all-star team in both 2017 and 2018. The Lions would sputter to a losing record and miss the playoffs that year and haven’t recovered ever since.
That night was a turning point for two franchises headed in opposite directions and although there were others, Rider Nation still has Gainey to thank for that.
A dependable tackler who has spent four years in the Jones-Jason Shivers defensive system and has only missed one game during that time, Gainey has been the most consistent presence on a star-studded defence that has seen bigger stars like Willie Jefferson and Charleston Hughes earn up a lot of the limelight.
Those players have sporadically come and gone from a defence regarded by many as the CFL’s best.
And there’s no bigger reason for that than No. 45 on this countdown, Ed Gainey.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
46. DB Tommie Campbell, Toronto Argonauts
47. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
48. REC DeVier Posey, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
49. DL Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DL Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Edmonton Football Team
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
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. DE 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