Hello, football fans preparing to vote for the 2023 CFL All-Star team. I’d like to have a little conversation about one player I sure hope you don’t forget about. Think of this column as a football PSA with me dispensing important advice like “friends don’t let friends wear a Toronto Argonauts jersey at Tim Horton’s Field.”
In this case, my humble slice of wisdom is when you’re filling out your All-Star ballots, please ensure that Calgary Stampeders’ linebacker Cameron Judge is on your final list. Looking over the football landscape of the 2023 season there were plenty of players I could advocate for here. I debated going high-end hipster and championing Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ offensive lineman Chris Kolankowski, who will be on this team when it’s fully chosen in November, but if I’m being honest my film study on interior o-line play is not where it needs to be.
I understand how Judge, a six-year pro, could get overlooked as this was not a dominant year for the Stampeders’ defence. They are mostly a middle of the pack team defensively from a statistical point of view. Also, it’s just human nature to focus on players on wining teams and with Calgary’s disappointing record it is justifiable that many of you are focusing on the rosters of teams like Winnipeg and Toronto.
Finally keep in mind this is not Judge’s first flirtation with All-Star status. He made the CFL All-Star team last year so it’s not like we are looking at a one hit wonder. With the year he’s had it’s fair to say Judge is not the football version of ‘I’m too Sexy’ by Right said Fred, even if he would look good in a mesh shirt. The last part of that sentence is only for people who remember watching music videos in 1992. Moving on.
The basic statistics scream Judge deserves your vote. He is top-10 in defensive plays and total tackles while his five interceptions are tied for second in the league. He doesn’t miss games and has put up at least three tackles in every game.
Of course, the biggest reason why I need you to vote for the Calgary linebacker is his impact with the Stampeders last two games, both wins that catapulted them into the playoffs. It wasn’t that long ago that the Saskatchewan Roughriders held the final playoff spot and controlled their own destiny.
That all changed in Week 19 when Judge, reading the eyes of Jake Dolegala, picked off that tree trunk of a quarterback and returned his thievery for a 33-yard touchdown. You can easily argue that was the biggest play of the year for Calgary, who trailed the Roughriders 16-12 late in the third quarter before Judge’s heroics. For the day, Judge finished second on the team with nine tackles. The last one saw him take down Dolegala on a failed third-down scramble on the final play of the game.
The next week Calgary faced off against a BC Lions team that still had a chance to win the Western Division. Instead, the Lions fell flat on their faces and were dominated by Calgary in every facet of the game. It can be difficult to focus on what was the critical game changing moment in a 41-16 blowout but in this case the game swung on a play that Judge was in the middle of.
With under five minutes to go in the fist half the Lions were down by 10 but had a first-and-goal from the two-yard line. In comes one of the game’s best short yardage specialists, Dominique Davis. In the middle of all the chaos that naturally comes with a quarterback plunge, Judge forced a fumble from the man with 17 rushing touchdowns in his last two years and finished the play in style by recovering the fumble.
🚨 GOAL LINE FUMBLE 🚨
— CFL (@CFL) October 21, 2023
Jake Maier and the Stamps’ offence would go on a 109-yard touchdown drive and what could have been a 10-7 game is now 17-0 and the Lions did not threaten again. Judge led the team in tackles while tacking on an impressive leaping interception, picking off Dane Evans more than 15 yards downfield.
Calgary went from being on the outside of the playoff party to getting an invitation thanks, in part, to two significant game altering big plays by the Stampeders’ linebacker.
So, to all you wonderful CFL fans if I can give you a few tiny pieces of football advice: Don’t bring up Johnny Manziel to Montreal Alouettes fans; I’d avoid wearing your Trent Richardson jersey in Regina and please make sure to cast a vote for Cameron Judge.