Original Ottawa Redblack Antoine Pruneau announces retirement after eight CFL seasons

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

One of the most iconic players in Ottawa Redblacks franchise history is hanging up his cleats.

Canadian safety Antoine Pruneau has announced his retirement after eight CFL seasons. The original Redblack shared the following statement.

“I had the best job in the world and I will forever be grateful to the people that accompanied me during this journey!

To RNation: Thank you for your unconditional support throughout my career. Through the great moments and the tougher ones, you were incredible towards me and I will never forget this moment spent at your side.

To my coaches: Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for the countless hours. Mostly, thank you for all the conversations that led me to be a better man. You were all great mentors!

To my teammates: Thank you for being so inspirational. I am going to miss our time on the field but I’ll miss the time away from the game with you all even more. FrenchMafia! Thank you for all the fun, all the jokes, all the wild times. Details on a succession plan to come.

To my family and friends: I truly believe that I am surrounded by the best people. You have been by my side from the very beginning and the influence you have had on me has allowed me to live my dream for nine beautiful years. I love you.”

Pruneau was selected with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 CFL Draft out of the University of Montreal, joining the Redblacks for their inaugural season. He would go on to record 79 total tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble as rookie, becoming the cornerstone of the Ottawa defence for the better part of the next decade.

“Antoine Pruneau is synonymous with Redblacks football,” head coach Bob Dyce said in a statement. “The passion he brought to the field was unmatched. He took great pride in wearing the “R” and it was evident in his leadership and play. I know he will bring the same energy to the next chapter of his career. We thank him and wish he and his family nothing but the best.”

The 33-year-old defensive back is the Redblacks’ all-time leader with 122 games played and 448 total tackles. He added 10 interceptions, four sacks, and four forced fumbles over the course of his career, earning East Division All-Star honours in 2016. That same year he helped lead Ottawa to their first Grey Cup victory since expansion, also making title game appearances in 2015 and 2018.

“Antoine Pruneau has shown remarkable leadership and dedication to this organization which will be tough to replace,” general manager Shawn Burke said in a statement. “We congratulate him on a job well done, a great career and wish him all the best in what comes next. He will always be a Redblack.”

A leader in the locker room and in the community, Pruneau was known for his work with local university football players, guest coaching youth football, and serving as the spiritual leader of the team’s “French Mafia,” helping serve as an ambassador in the bilingual community of Ottawa-Gatineau.

“Antoine personifies what it means to be a Redblack,” OSEG CEO Mark Goudie said in a statement. “He left everything he had on the field, played through broken bones and helped bring a Grey Cup back to this city. But his contributions extended far beyond his play; he has been a leader in the community, the self-proclaimed leader of the French Mafia and a key piece in ushering along the next era of talented Redblacks players. Thank you, Antoine, on behalf of the Redblacks, OSEG and everyone who loves this game in Ottawa.”

With Pruneau’s retirement, defensive lineman Nigel Romick becomes the last original Redblack still on the team’s roster.