It’s kind of like Saskatchewan is the island of misfit toys.
In the lovable children’s Christmas movie Rudolph, the island of misfit toys is where kids’ toys end up when they’re no longer wanted.
This Roughriders team, heading into the eastern final on Sunday, is full of discarded football players. Players other teams told had lost a step or were too old to keep playing the game.
“I guess we’re like pirates in a sense, all the unwanted guys on one team going to win a championship,” said receiver Duron Carter who despite undeniable talent, had been released by the Montreal Alouettes last year.
Under the watchful eye of head coach Chris Jones, Carter has become less of a distraction than he’s been known for in the past and considered by receivers coach Marcus Howell as a “glue guy,” someone who keeps the team together.
He’s also had an incredible season on the field. Carter was one of three Roughriders’ receivers with more than 1,000 yards including one game where he caught for 231.
“We never want to be looked down upon in a sense especially in a sport where we feel like we’re the top guys to do it. We definitely bring it into the game … we keep it on our backs and we’re ready.”
Likewise, teammate Jovon Johnson is relishing the opportunity to prove people wrong about him. A leader on defence, the 34-year-old was cut by Montreal after training camp and scooped right up and into a starting role with the Roughriders.
“So many of us have been written off as maybe they’re not good enough or maybe they’re too old or whatever the story lines were,” he said. “A lot of people wrote us off and we continue to go out and prove people wrong.”
With the Riders this season Johnson has amassed 36 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries an interception and 13 knockdowns.
And those are just two examples.
The star of the Roughriders eastern semi-final, Marcus Thigpen had been bounced around the NFL and quit the game before joining the Roughriders this season. His 169 yards rushing and one touchdown was one of the best performances in Saskatchewan playoff history.
Defensive back Crezdon Butler spent time with eight different NFL teams before making his home with the Roughriders. The 30-year-old put up 39 tackles this year, two quarterback sacks, one forced fumble and four knockdowns.
So being underestimated and being the underdog? This team is used to it and ready to keep overcoming it.
They’ve seen the odds stack against them and they’ve still come out on top.
“We see it, we see the CFL probability and we got like 2 per cent chance of winning the game and all that stuff … we’re here we know we’re good and we’re ready to win,” Carter said.
So call them misfit toys, call them castoffs, call them pirates, but in two weeks time, they may also be called champions.