3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 44 SAM Don Unamba, Ottawa Redblacks

Football careers seldom follow a straightforward path. Instead, the longer they go, the more detours and pit stops they tend to feature. The seventh Redblack on our list is a perfect example of that.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com.

Don Unamba began playing football at L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, before making his way to Southern Arkansas University’s Division II NCAA program. Despite a strong senior season that featured 47 tackles, a school record 17 pass knockdowns and two blocked punts, Unamba went unselected in the NFL draft.

He signed with the St. Louis Rams but his taste of NFL football was fleeting, as he was waived after a month. The Buffalo Bills also brought Unamba in for a workout later that summer but nothing serious came out of it.

Not yet ready to call it a career, like so many other Americans before him, Unamba made his way north and signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in April 2014. The Bombers got immediate production from the Arlington, Texas native, as Unamba went on to appear in every game that season, making 45 tackles, one interception, forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble and scoring a touchdown.

For whatever reason, Winnipeg chose not to keep Unamba around and in August 2015, he signed with Saskatchewan. He worked his way from the practice squad to the game day roster, ultimately dressing for eleven games, making 29 tackles, a sack and forcing a fumble.

When Saskatchewan turned over their front office in the off-season, Unamba was lost in the shuffle. Aside from a brief stint with the Montreal Alouettes and later the Indoor Football League’s Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, Unamba spent the majority of 2016 out of football.

In 2017, Unamba resurfaced in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Over the following two seasons, Unamba played in 29 games, amassing 99 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown en route to earning his first CFL all-star nod.

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The 2019 off-season saw Unamba’s football journey land him in yet another city — Edmonton. After recovering from a Week 1 injury, Unamba went on to start twelve games at the SAM (strong-side) linebacker position for the green and gold, making 46 tackles, six sacks, an interception and forcing two fumbles.

When the the six-foot-one, 195-pound defensive back inked a deal with the Redblacks this past February, Ottawa became the journeyman’s sixth home in seven seasons. The 31-year-old’s size, cover skills and quickness are everything one could ask for in a prototypical SAM linebacker — not only does he match up well with slot receivers and running backs in the flat, he is also nimble enough to beat blockers on blitzes.

Although he has moved around the league, production has always followed. In 73 career games Unamba has 192 tackles, 36 special teams tackles, eleven sacks, eight forced fumbles, six interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns to his credit.

If Unamba winds up sticking around in the nation’s capital — after all, his one-year deal is set to expire in February — he could provide Mike Benevides’ defence with the ability to mask and disguise a number of coverage and blitz packages. If that turns out to be the case, a linebacking corps of Jerod Fernandez, Avery Williams and Unamba might be among the league’s strongest.

And if he moves on, Kevin Glenn’s distinction of being the only player to spend time with all nine franchises might be in jeopardy.

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.

45. DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
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

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Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).