‘It’s not even close’: new Saskatchewan linebacker Darnell Sankey believes Riders’ fan base superior to Stampeders’

Screengrab courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Darnell Sankey is a week into his first training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and he hasn’t regretted his decision to sign with the team for a second.

“I’ve been feeling a lot of love, especially from the fans,” Sankey told the media Thursday. “The fans, the media, the coaches, the players, I haven’t really had any problems with anybody here. I feel like for the most part that I’m respected, not only as a player but as a man. ”

The CFL’s leading tackler in his very first season with the Calgary Stampeders, Sankey departed the team in free agency in search of pay raise. The Riders won the sweepstakes for the middle linebacker’s services, handing him a deal worth $110,000 in hard money, but it wasn’t the cheque that lured him to Regina.

Visiting Mosaic Stadium as a player, Sankey was struck by the atmosphere created by Rider Nation. He knew he had to be a part of it.

“We played here I believe twice. The fans, it was just crazy. I just remember the whole stadium rocking and it was totally my vibe,” he recalled. “I think it reminded me of playing down south in those giant stadiums. You don’t really get that as much in Calgary.”

While Sankey enjoyed his time in Cowtown, he believes there is simply no comparing the passion of Stampeders’ fans to the absolute fervour of Riderville.

“The fan base is great, but it’s nowhere near Saskatchewan,” Sankey said. “It’s not even close, especially when you go into the stadium. You see all that green and you’re on the other side of the sideline. It’s like, ‘oh, whoa.'”

That trickles into every aspect of your life when you play in Saskatchewan and Sankey couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of it. Already a leader on the Rider’s defence, the “overall vibe” of the franchise is exactly what he expected it to be.

“That’s what it comes down to. When I was making my decisions with my agent back when things opened up, we really took a look at everything and we broke down it all,” Sankey said. “I’m just excited. I’m excited to get things going. I don’t have any complaints.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.