The Toronto Argonauts celebrated their victory in Sunday’s 109th Grey Cup game with a rally at Maple Leaf Square, outside Scotiabank Arena, Thursday.
Streets were shut down in the area and hundreds of fans were able to see Argos players deliver speeches and hoist the Grey Cup trophy.
“The thing that’s special about this team is that we were so resilient. But we get that from the leadership that starts from the top and it just trickles down. Everybody that played a role in getting us here today - thank you,” said Henoc Muamba, who was named Grey Cup MVP and most outstanding Canadian.
“There were so many people that said so many things leading up to that week. And coach Dinwiddie and the rest of the coaching staff instilled so much confidence in us. And we, from the very beginning, from the time we landed in Regina, believed that we were the better team.”
Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie thanked Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) and Argos General Manager Michael “pinball” Clemons for giving him the opportunity to coach the team.
“A lot of folks probably didn’t think this was the right hire… look at us now,” Dinwiddie said.
“We try to build culture the right way and everybody’s the same, we’re all equals, and we have a job to do. And it counts on each one of us every day to get it done. Lots of hours go into this that people don’t see behind the scenes.”
Clemons also praised the many coaches, trainers, arena staff and other Argos employees who helped the team along the way this season.
Muamba, who grew up in Mississauga, said he and his teammates didn’t listen to the many narratives surrounding the team leading up to the Grey Cup game that counted the Argos out against the two-time defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“There were so many narratives that were floating around; that we weren’t good enough to win this Grey Cup championship. That we wouldn’t be strong enough and we wouldn’t last and we wouldn’t bring this home to Toronto. But we didn’t listen to that,” Muamba said.
Toronto led 24-23 in the dying minutes of the Grey Cup game when Muamba intercepted Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros to put the Argos at the Winnipeg 43-yard line with 3:20 to play. But Winnipeg's Nick Hallett blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt to put the Bombers at their 29-yard line with two minutes remaining.
Then, with less than a minute left to play, Canadian Robbie Smith blocked Winnipeg’s 47-yard field goal attempt which would have given the Blue Bombers the lead. Toronto got the ball at its 14-yard line with 43 seconds remaining and was able to run out the clock for the stunning victory.
“What a crazy turn of events, right,” said backup quarterback Chad Kelly earlier this week.
Kelly replaced Argos starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson after he dislocated his thumb early in the fourth quarter, when Toronto was trailing 23-17.
“I mean at first we’re like: ‘oh we're about to go up four’ and then the block and then all of a sudden they're going down to kick for the win. And then there's another block and you're like: ‘man, this is unreal.’ But this is exactly the way God wrote it. And we're super fortunate and super blessed to be on the winning side.”
Muamba told fans at the rally that many people thought the Argos wouldn’t be able to handle Regina’s cold November weather and would struggle against the experienced Blue Bombers.
“One of the other narratives that was out there, was that we came from Toronto, it’s not cold here and when we get to Regina, we’re going to be too cold… but what did you say, y’all,” Muamba asked his teammates.
“It ain’t cold enough,” they replied.