November 14, 2023

O’Leary: MAD, the Alouettes’ gentleman thief

Kevin Sousa/

Marc-Antoine Dequoy can’t tell you the exact time of his first theft.

Like many other kids, he eyed the odd gummy candy in a grocery store. He may have exited a time or two with his pockets a tad more full than they were when he entered, he said on Tuesday, but that was never really his thing.

From childhood into his adult life, Dequoy has been more about thievery on the football field.

“I started playing at the age of six-years old, so I couldn’t say (when for) the first one,” the Montreal Alouettes’ safety and CFL All-Star said of his first-ever interception.

“I can say that the biggest one I do remember, early on, was in CEGEP with Montmorency Nomades. I made a pick in the end zone, could have run it back for a touchdown. But at that time, I was too gassed.”

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These days, Dequoy has no trouble getting to the end zone. He also has a new most memorable interception, thanks to the pick and 101-yard dash he made in the Eastern Final, which set the tone for the Montreal Alouettes’ upset victory over the 16-2 Toronto Argonauts. The Argos were up to the Alouettes’ seven-yard line on their first drive of the game and Chad Kelly was looking for the end zone. Dequoy read the play, stole the ball and put his legs in Road Runner mode, whirling away to the end zone. A packed BMO Field was stunned into silence, just a few minutes into play.

Uncontested for almost half of the length of the field, Dequoy waved to the crowd in Toronto and took a gentlemanly bow in the end zone, while absorbing just how much of a swing the play provided for his team.

This year, he had a career-best five interceptions, good for second most in the league. That, along with 57 tackles, drove him to being the East’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

“It’s always amazing,” he said of that moment where he gets his hands on the ball and can hear the crowd reaction.

“When you do it at home, the fans go crazy but when you do it in somebody else’s home…you feel the energy sucked out of the crowd and just the breath of the fans getting taken out of them. It’s something special and it’s a nice feeling.”

It wasn’t just the crowd that was deflated. Dequoy said that he saw Argos’ quarterback Chad Kelly‘s demeanour change after the pick six. Kelly’s uncharacteristic day had just begun at that point. He finished the game with four interceptions.

“Some QB’s which, the one we faced (last week) when they threw a pick, you saw them just completely get like it was like another…I’d never seen the version of the QB we faced last week,” he said.

As Dequoy gets ready for the 110th Grey Cup on Sunday, he knows that Zach Collaros isn’t going to be shaken by anything that might happen on the field. When the Alouettes visited the Bombers in Week 12, Collaros threw three first half interceptions, including a pair of pick sixes; one of which was Dequoy’s work in a two-interception performance. Still, despite a dominant showing from the Als’ defence in that first half, the Bombers stayed together and put together an incredible final 30 minutes of play and rolled to a 47-17 win.

“The thing with Collaros is he’s a veteran,” Dequoy said. “He really (has the) mentality of, ‘OK, next play.’ That’s what he did. He threw two pick sixes in the first half and he came back and they threw for I don’t know how many yards. That’s the thing that we know. We’re going to be facing a great QB and a great team that’s well coached.”

Collaros has learned a lot about Dequoy over the last two years as well. In 2022, he learned the hard way just how dangerous the former Montreal Carabin is around the ball.

“It’s just how fast he is,” Collaros said. “You see it on tape and you know he can move. I think I threw a corner ball to (Nic) Demski last year. He was able to close on it and the ball got tipped up in the air and he intercepted it, just a crazy play.

“And I threw him one this year. He really closed a lot of ground pretty fast. I think as you get reps, you understand the game more and he’s got a great coach over there (in Noel Thorpe, the Als’ defensive coordinator and DBs coach). So you just get better and better.”

Asked about Darnell Sankey‘s now seven-game-old prediction, where the linebacker declared the team wouldn’t lose any more games, Dequoy immediately reacted.

“It’s a nice quote,” Dequoy said. “When we win it’s going to be printing everywhere.

“I think that’s the thing with the Alouettes that people don’t really realize is we’re a much different team than we were when we started at the beginning of the regular season. When we started on that winning streak, that’s more of the team that will show up on that day.”

If Dequoy can get his sneaky, sticky hands on a Collaros pass, the odds could shift in the Als’ favour on Sunday.

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