Andy Fantuz knows it’s going to be a circus when he returns to Saskatchewan and faces the Riders for the first time since his off-season departure. His trip back to the green province almost assuredly has been circled on many Rider fans’ calendars since the day he decided to move East and sign with the Tiger-Cats back in February.
Fantuz isn’t sure of how he will be greeted by the sea of green faithful at Mosaic Stadium, when he takes the field in opposition colours.
From this corner, there is only one choice for the people of Rider nation: Fantuz should be met with raucous applause and open arms.
Think of all he accomplished in Saskatchewan after being drafted with the third overall pick in the CFL’s 2006 Canadian Draft.
In six seasons wearing Rider green, Fantuz racked up 289 receptions, 4,311 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He also helped the franchise reach three Grey Cups, one of which they won in 2007. Not to mention, he was named the most valuable Canadian in Saskatchewan’s 23-19 Grey Cup victory, hauling in four passes for 79 yards and a key fourth quarter score.
The Chatham, Ontario native had his best individual season in Rider green in 2010. He led the entire league in receiving with 1,380 yards on the way to being named the CFL’s most outstanding Canadian.
Also, Fantuz led the creation of the Riders ‘Canadian Air Force’. And breakfast cereal famously known as ‘Fantuz Flakes’ flew off grocery store shelves during his time in Saskatchewan.
In the rectangle province, fans adopted Fantuz as one of their own chosen sons.
As a result of how beloved Fantuz was by the people of Rider Nation, it’s easy to see why fans felt scorned by his departure.
However, he left for home. Can’t we all identify with that?
On his way out, Number 83 didn’t bash the city of Regina or province of Saskatchewan. Instead, he still raves about his time there and how great the fan base treated him when he wore green.
It’s not as if Fantuz left town after having a falling out with the team or coaching staff. He left after making a tough decision, one that weighed heavily on his mind.
Fantuz's First TD as a Ticat
Ultimately, home was where Fantuz’s heart was.
Just as it was for Weyburn, Saskatchewan native Brendon LaBatte who left the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to play back home for the Riders during the past off-season. Watermelon heads sure loved seeing one of their hometown boys return to suit up for the green and white.
Fantuz and LaBatte aren’t even in the same stadium in terms of star power, obviously, but both couldn’t resist the chance to play in front of family and friends every home game.
If Regina happened to be just a close drive from Chatham, instead of Hamilton, odds are Fantuz would still be wearing a Riders jersey.
The reality of the situation is Hamilton happens to be located in Ontario and Regina in Saskatchewan. You’re welcome for the geography lesson.
Rider nation, instead of being like every other fan base in pro sports - booing a player who left upon his arrival in opposition colours. Step away from the norm. If there ever was a player to be welcomed back in his return and celebrated, it’s an athlete like Fantuz.
At the end of the day, we all know how good it feels to be home. Tigers or Cats
Fantuz’s return to Regina certainly headlines the week 5 matchup, but Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin and his post-game comments after beating Hamilton in Week 1 have certainly caught some attention.
Chamblin, captured by a TSN camera, addressed his team after the win: “We said it was either going to be what? Some Tigers or some Cats…Meow.”
One might think Hamilton will enter Saturday’s rematch with their Tiger claws out.