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Cassius Vaughn hopped down from the riser, where he and his Toronto Argonauts teammates had just lifted the Grey Cup after a stunning come from behind, 27-24 win over the Calgary Stampeders.
He’d been a key player, providing a crucial turnaround play, just when it looked like the Argos were cooked.
When asked to describe his play, his remarkable, game-changing 109-yard fumble recovery touchdown, he started by shouting just one thing over and over.
“I had the right shoes! I had the right shoes!”
Vaughn and his teammates did not have the right shoes for the opening thirty minutes of the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw. It showed.
As the snow accumulated on the field at Ottawa’s TD Place before the game began, it quickly became apparent that traction would be a factor.
The Argos slipped and slipped and slipped along, barely moving the ball and trudging to the locker room trailing by a score of 17-8.
That’s when equipment manager Danny Webb, the longtime den father of the good ship Argonaut, finally had the ears of the Argos, and was able to convince most everyone on the team to change their shoes to the funny looking ones he’d brought along on the trip. He’d brought them along because Danny Webb has always been prepared.
“I knew before the game that that was a pretty big piece of the puzzle,”
Webb said of the footwear he persuaded the players to slip into after thirty minutes. “I didn’t have enough believers at the beginning but at halftime I won them over.”
Or the fact that the Stampeders were owning the snow-covered turf won them over.
“Once they bought in we were good,” said Webb, who then began to explain the differences between the team’s first and second half tire selections.
They’re a conical-shaped shoe (cleats) that dig down into the turf,” Webb said but then was interrupted by Vaughn, who was wandering by.
“Webby made us change our shoes!” he blurted out twice, laughing as he slipped by and back into the friendly, champagne-soaked melee that was the Argos’ locker room.
Webb continued. “They’re great for wet turf, or snow on the turf, compared to your regular, dry, field turf shoes. We’ve won Grey Cups with these exact same shoes on grass and now on field turf.”
The players, it seems, didn’t believe in Webb’s footwear of choice, some of them thinking they looked odd, or as James Wilder Jr., put it, like some kind of bad throwbacks to another era.
“They look like 1980’s, man,” Wilder said with wide eyes and a good laugh. “But we had to pull ‘em out and they worked. Big difference. Big difference.”
During the first half Argos receivers weren’t cutting well. Defensive backs weren’t getting traction, beaten around corner after corner by Stampeder receivers. The offensive line was being pushed around, soundly dominated by a sure-footed Calgary defensive line.
Wilder stutter-stepped often and that was not by design, as he was held to just seven yards and five carries in the first thirty minutes. He may not have been dominant in the second half, but he took one Ricky Ray swing pass and authoritatively cut and accelerated his way to a first down, as the Argonauts tried to scramble back from their first half deficit.
“I give Danny Webb his props,” said Wilder. “We were laughing at the way they looked but it helped. It worked out.
As the Grey Cup was being body-surfed around the room, Webb was switching gears towards congratulating the players, management, ownership and the like.
Asked to bring the conversation back to himself and the shoes, he smiled and you could tell he was feeling very satisfied.
“I got a lot of high-fives after the game,” he said.
High-fives rom a relieved group of Argonauts who went from laughing at the suggestion to being very, very glad they finally chose function over fashion.