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December 7, 2017

O’Leary’s Alt-Stars: The best of the rest in 2017

Dave Chidley/CFL.ca

The 2017 CFL All-Stars were revealed on Tuesday, with 27 of the league’s biggest stars in 2017 selected by a panel of 71 voters. While all of those players were well-deserving, CFL.ca’s Chris O’Leary has his roster of ‘second-team’ all-stars — those who just missed out but deserved better.

Sometimes when you’re hurting, some acknowledgement can go a long way.

So with that in mind, we hear you, Richard Leonard. We know. You were great this year and your season didn’t fall on deaf ears, or blind eyes, as much as it might feel like it did. Your season was a lesson in patience, in evolution and determination through a ride that few players in this league will go on in their careers, let alone their rookie year.

You had 72 tackles, seven interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown and your 13 knockdowns tied for the league lead. Those stats came through 18 games; all 18 of them. While the Tiger-Cats did good things in the second half of the season, you were there for the entire ride. Those knockdowns you had early on didn’t get you down. You knew you were close, and you knew, like so many good DBs in football, that when you get an interception they’re likely to come in bunches after.

You gave up inches and pounds defending some of the best receivers in this league and you made their games against Hamilton difficult. Sometimes early on it looked like you were the only point of resistance in the passing game.

I know it’ll be of little consolation to see your name on this list, this collection of players with tons of talent and as of Tuesday, maybe tons of anger toward how the voting went in CFL All-Star selection. But know that you headline it and that if I were picking teams for anything right now — flag football, pickup basketball, shinny hockey (can you skate? It doesn’t matter) — I’d be choosing you first.

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Maybe more than any other team in the league, the Tiger-Cats can’t wait for training camp to get here, but I feel like you’ll go into 2018 with the fire in your belly fully stoked. Players to watch, future all-stars, difference makers, I think you’ll land on lots of those lists in a long career ahead of you.

My alt-stars list consists entirely of players that weren’t chosen as all-stars this year. Most were on the wrong side of a popular/highly deserving/statistically dominant candidate. Others were chosen partly on sentimental reasons (if this is it, Nik Lewis, and John Bowman, thanks!).

2017 CFL Alt-Stars

OFFENCE

QB: Ricky Ray, Toronto

RB: James Wilder Jr., Toronto

REC: Brandon Banks, Hamilton

REC: Jalen Saunders, Hamilton

REC: Manny Arceneaux, BC

REC: Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa

REC: Nik Lewis, Montreal

C: Justin Sorensen, Edmonton

OG: Travis Bond, Winnipeg

OG: Sukh Chung, Winnipeg

OT: Randy Richards, Calgary

OT: Dan Federkeil, Calgary

DEFENCE

DE: Victor Butler, Toronto

DE: John Bowman, Montreal

DT: Cleyon Laing, Toronto

DT: Euclid Cummings, Edmonton

LB: Larry Dean, Hamilton

LB: Marcus Ball, Toronto

SLB: Maurice Leggett, Winnipeg

CB: Tommie Campbell, Calgary

CB: Richard Leonard, Hamilton

HB: Cassius Vaughn, Toronto

HB: Mitchell White, Toronto

S: Josh Bell, Calgary

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Sergio Castillo, Hamilton

P: Brett Maher, Ottawa

RET: Diontae Spencer, Ottawa