When the Toronto Argonauts walked off of the Mosaic Stadium turf last November with the Grey Cup held high in celebration, there were many incredible tales to tell of athletes’ lifelong journeys towards the eternal label of ‘champion.’
Regardless of what side of the border you hail from, part of that journey is evaluation when making the transition from college to the pros. With the CFL’s Combine season in full swing, hundreds of players are currently training, testing and travelling for their chance to take the first step towards a Grey Cup championship.
Here are my five favourite Argos stories about players who took that step and many more before celebrating in Saskatchewan late last year. It’s a reminder that what might seem like a fruitless series of off-season hurdles can turn into crucial building blocks on your team’s way to the Grey Cup.
Royce Metchie, defensive back
In 2018, Royce Metchie was a smooth moving defensive back for the Guelph Gryphons. His acceleration from 10, to 20, to 40 yards was elite even before learning the specific tricks of the trade that allowed him to be traded from Calgary to Toronto for standout linebacker Cameron Judge last off-season before organizing the Double Blue defence as starting free safety in 2022.
Of course, the CFL Combine radar charts fail to display the human element and effort to improve. I say this because Metchie’s willingness to study his mistakes and anticipate what opposing coaches will likely do to twist him in knots on game day intrigued me in conversation last season before calling a Toronto-BC late-season contest. All part of the journey from evaluation to champion.
Ryan Hunter, offensive line
Coming out of Bowling Green in 2018, Ryan Hunter was one of the smoothest, most athletic lineman around. He opted to test his NFL potential and was rewarded with a Super Bowl while a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hunter finally brought his championship touch north of the border late this season, creating a conundrum for Argos coaches as they tried to find the right spot for the flexible talent before settling in at left guard for the 109th Grey Cup.
Robbie Smith, defensive line
One of the names you will never forget from an all-time Argos win, Robbie Smith took the penalty which extended Winnipeg’s three-peat hopes, before blocking a field goal late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. That was just part of his extensive football journey, which included this eye-opening 2019 CFL Combine performance.
His then-Argos’ teammate Ja’Gared Davis told me this year that Smith has all the potential and variety of moves to be a top-five CFL pass rusher as soon as 2023. The athleticism was never in doubt from this combine.
Kurleigh Gittens Jr., receiver
Even still, he was the sixth receiver to come off the board in the 2019 draft. After spending a couple years as an understudy, Gittens Jr. exploded onto the scene in 2022 as a CFL star. Despite having a rough Grey Cup while under the weather, he signed a three-year extension with Toronto ahead of free agency and is poised to have another stellar season after being an incredible value pick for the Argos.
Henoc Muamba, linebacker
If there is one image that will always resonate in my mind from the 109th Grey Cup, it is Henoc Muamba breaking into full tears on stage while being awarded the championship and being named the game’s Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian.
A decade ago, Muamba set the standard for linebacker combine performances with this jaw-dropping effort. A bit undersized? Sure, if you’d like to nitpick but that’s the only fault you’d find in his game before the now immortalized Argos’ man in the middle was taken first overall by Winnipeg.
From Gregor Mackellar to Daniel Adeboboye, Jack Cassar to Dariusz Bladek, the Argos were full of great CFL Combine stories deserving of love. So as we make our way through testing and the Draft over the next two months ask yourself this: Who are the great Canadian stories that will be told about my team yet to be found at these combines?