OTTAWA – Like the rest of his teammates, Marquay McDaniel has unfinished business at the 105th Grey Cup.
This whole season is about atoning for last year’s heartbreaking championship loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks.
From the day camp opened, this Sunday’s game in the nation’s capital was circled on the calendar, the chance for redemption front and centre for the Red and White.
For Marquay McDaniel, this Grey Cup is the chance for a do-over on more than one front.
After injuring his shoulder early in the game against the RedBlacks, the then eight-year veteran slotback was forced to watch from the sidelines, unable to help his team as they went on to fall in overtime.
“It’ll be sweet either way,” said McDaniel after the team’s practice at the University of Ottawa Wednesday. “But if I can play the whole game and we win it will definitely be sweeter.”
Being reduced to a spectator in the biggest game of the year was obviously difficult for the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder.
“It sucked,” said McDaniel shaking his head. “It’s the one game you want to be out there with your guys and trying to win – win the big game.”
Still, not playing didn’t make the loss sting worse for him personally. Frankly, he said, it was impossible for it to hurt any more than it did when his favoured side saw their season end in a heartbreaker.
Nothing could make it worse.
“Just how the game ended, how we were so close,” he said. “So to win it this year would be so special because we were so close to winning.”
“We have to win this game,” he added. “That’s our focus.”
Marquay McDaniel outruns Eskimos’ Aaron Grymes and Kenny Ladler in the Western Final Sunday. (CFL photo)
Hence the importance of the aforementioned do-over.
“I can’t worry about stuff I can’t control,” said McDaniel of his injury last time around on Grey Cup Sunday. “ It happened, it wasn’t meant to be. But I’m here, back this year, feeling healthy and hopefully I can play 60 minutes this game.”
McDaniel missed the last three games this past regular season due to injury, but finished the year with 65 receptions for 860 yards and four touchdowns.
He was one of the many walking wounded when it came to Calgary’s receiving corps this campaign, a group that was finally back and healthy in the club’s Western Final win over the Edmonton Eskimos last Sunday.
Having the team’s deadly group of pass catchers all back and ready to attack spells bad news for the Argos secondary.
“That’s what we saw last week, I think,” said McDaniel. “I think we played, as a group, our best game of the year. Guys were focused, guys were catching the ball, guys were blocking down the field. We were on.
“Receivers really make this offence go,” he added. “Hopefully we put together another great game as a group again.”
Because McDaniel knows getting another shot at a championship so quick doesn’t happen all the time.
“After last year you talk about how I wanna get back, I wanna get back,” said McDaniel. “But, it’s hard to get back. Especially this year. The West was very tough this year. So to actually be back is a great feeling but we know how last year felt.
“So I think that’s why we’re a more focused group this year. But you still have to play the game. You can be as focused as you want but you still have to out there and play good football to win.”