The Ottawa Redblacks’ all-decade team

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

As part of their 10th anniversary commemorations, the Ottawa Redblacks are currently running a poll allowing fans to vote for their Top-10 all-time Redblacks.

While entirely logical, limiting the voting to just ten players means plenty of deserving guys will be left out. In an attempt to cast a wider net and recognize some players who might otherwise be overlooked, I’ve decided to fill out a full roster and create the Redblacks’ all-decade team.

The ensuing roster isn’t just about longevity or championship pedigree — although neither hurts — but instead I tried to approach the task by asking: who was the best of the best? Who were the guys whose performances peaked in the nation’s capital and that would give you the best chance of winning a single game?

Here’s what I came up with.

*denotes National player

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Offence:

Coordinator: Jason Maas

Quarterback — Henry Burris | Running back — William Powell | Fullback — Patrick Lavoie* | Left tackle — Sir Vincent Rogers | Left guard — J’Michael Deane* | Centre — Jon Gott* | Right guard — Nolan McMillan* | Right tackle — Jason Lauzon-Séguin* | Receiver — Greg Ellingson | Receiver — Brad Sinopoli* | Receiver — Ernest Jackson | Receiver — Chris Williams | Receiver — Diontae Spencer

Led by strong-armed pivot Henry Burris, this attack should have no issues moving the ball. Burris might have been at the tail end of his career while wearing the red and black, but his veteran savvy, big arm, and ability to perform at the highest level when the stakes were greatest made him an Ottawa legend in three short years. To top it off, Burris oozed leadership and commanded the respect of his teammates.

While at his peak, Powell was one of the league’s most dangerous dual threats, capable of gouging defences on the ground or turning a check down in the flats into a first down. Fullback Patrick Lavoie wasn’t frequently involved in the passing attack but was reliable when called upon and a punishing blocker. He was also a durable special teamer which aids our roster construction.

This offensive line is basically the 2015 group minus Colin Kelly at right tackle. Many in R-Nation continue to overlook Lauzon-Séguin’s contributions at the position. While not dominant, he was a stable presence through multiple Grey Cup appearances. The interior trio of Deane, Gott, and McMillan are durable, smart, mean, and tough. What more could one could ask for from the men in the heart of the trenches? To this day, Rogers had the best technique of any offensive lineman to play tackle for the Redblacks.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The easiest position group to fill out for this entire thought exercise was the receiving corps. Every season, Ellingson, Sinopoli, Jackson and Williams were good for a thousand yards each and a handful of touchdowns. Between them, they own every significant franchise receiving record. If a ball came towards any of them on second and long, there was an excellent chance the chains were moving. Spencer was another thousand-yard receiver and his blend of soft hands, speed, and open-field shiftiness limited his time with Ottawa as he parlayed those traits into a very respectable NFL stint.

Finally, this group will be led by Montreal’s current head coach. Since his departure, the Redblacks have yet to find another OC whose aggressive game plans and schemes gave opposing coordinators fits in the way that Maas’ did.

Defence:

Coordinator: Mark Nelson

Defensive end — Avery Ellis | Defensive tackle — Cleyon Laing* | Defensive tackle — Zack Evans* | Defensive end — Lorenzo Mauldin IV | Weakside linebacker —  Damaso Munoz | Middle linebacker —  Avery Williams | Strongside linebacker — Jerrell Gavins | Halfback — Forrest Hightower | Halfback — Abdul Kanneh | Cornerback — Brandin Dandridge | Cornerback — Corey Tindal | Safety — Antoine Pruneau*

Piecing together an all-time Redblacks defence was onerous, simply because there are so many worthy options at each position. Honourable mentions go out to Brayden Thompson, Taylor Reed, Justin Capicciotti, Moton Hopkins, and Jonathan Rose. It wasn’t easy leaving them off my final ballot but ultimately there were only so many spots to go around.

Good luck running against this front seven. With Laing and Evans clogging up the middle and commanding double teams, tackling machines Munoz and Williams should be wreaking havoc in the backfield. On passing downs, Ellis and Mauldin will be handfuls coming off the edge, while Gavins’ coverage skills and blitzing ability mean opposing quarterbacks will be pressured into plenty of bad decisions.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The secondary is littered with play-makers who aren’t afraid to trade paint on rushing downs. Hightower, Kanneh, Tindal, and Dandridge are physical enough to make open-field tackles and nimble enough to run with the other team’s top receivers. During his prime, as the last line of defence, Pruneau was just as likely to make a bone-crunching tackle as he was to come up with a timely turnover.

Mark Nelson’s units were never dominant statistically, but they were tough to run against and had a knack for coming up with opportunistic takeaways.

Special teams:

Coordinator: Bob Dyce

Long Snapper — Louis-Philippe Bourassa* | Punter — Richie Leone | Kicker — Lewis Ward* | Returner — DeVonte Dedmon | Coverage ace — Nigel Romick*

Any talk of Redblacks’ special teams excellence starts with Lewis Ward. He’s as automatic as it gets and made pro football history with his record of 69 consecutive field goals. But Ward’s success doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Without perfect snaps from Bourassa — who never had a bad snap in five years — and precise holds from Leone — who happens to be a hell of a punter himself — those seemingly automatic three-point kicks don’t happen.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Dedmon made CFL history by needing only 15 games to record five return touchdowns. Nobody’s ever achieved the feat so quickly. Since his return from the NFL, Dedmon’s yet to take one to the house, but he’s still capable of flipping field position in the blink of an eye.

Ottawa has been fortunate to have a number of excellent special teamers — Jean-Philippe Bolduc, Keelan Johnson, Kevin Brown, Andrew Marshall, and Shaheed Salmon all spring to mind — but one stands above them all. You don’t accidentally become the franchise leader in special teams tackles and in 2024, Romick will look to add to his totals.

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).