February 17, 2023

Ready To Compete

The competition is heating up at the middle linebacker position.

With the recent departure of Jameer Thurman, who is heading east to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, fans across the CFL have been asking who will fill the Grey Cup champion’s shoes with the Red and White.

Will the team promote from within or make an acquisition in free agency?

Well, we’re getting closer to answering that question.

The Stamps added veteran linebacker Micah Awe to the roster on Feb. 17, giving Calgary an experienced candidate to bid for the job.

Awe has recorded 251 defensive tackles, including 13 tackles for loss, 31 special-teams tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, six knockdowns, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries over his five-year CFL career.

Throughout those five seasons, Awe has suited up for the Montreal Alouettes, Ottawa Redblacks, Toronto Argonauts and BC Lions. But his arrival in Calgary comes as no surprise for the 29-year-old – you could almost say it was fate.

“I think it’s always kind of been in fruition because all of my best games have been in Calgary, at least all my biggest hits, so it was just eventuality and it worked out great,” said Awe.

“I’m super excited and it’s a great fit because I think I can just do what I do best, like what I did at (Texas) Tech, which is just run to the ball, make tackles, get the ball out, and get interceptions.”

The CFL vet has nothing but admiration for the Stampeders defensive unit, and he’s ready to compete alongside them when the doors to training camp open in May.

“What I love about this defence is that it’s run to the ball,” said Awe. “The whole point of football is, especially on defence, to get from point A to point B and whoever can do that the best is going to be the best.

“I watched both of those linebackers last year (Cameron Judge and Silas Stewart) and Thurman, I’ve been watching him, and they always have done that so well – making plays by just running to the ball. I really respect it.

“I can’t wait to put my own flavour and my own little touch on this defence.”

The Texas native is known for laying the boom on running backs, receivers and just about anyone else who attempts to cross into his domain. Defensive coordinator Brent Monson is excited to add him to his linebacking corps.

“That physical presence, his athleticism, playing with effort, all of that stuff we like on our defence,” said Monson. “I’m excited to have him.

“Obviously, it’s an open competition at that spot so he’ll be bringing that physicality and that attitude to compete with the other guys and hopefully make us a better defence.”

Since the opening of CFL free agency on Feb. 14, there has been concern amongst fans about replacing the Mike position. It is the “quarterback” of the defence after all.

But Stampeders faithful must remember this is a job that Monson has had to replace before, time and time again.

And he’s not worried.

“Obviously, we moved from (Darnell) Sankey to Thurm, before Sankey it was (Cory) Greenwood, it was Wynton (McManis), it was (Alex) Singleton. Everyone that’s been there brings a different type of player to that spot. I feel like everyone has fit in well within the scheme to have productive seasons for us.

“I feel like there’s these new pieces that are going to be given this opportunity, like Silas, Micah, others, will all have the opportunity to fit in that role that those other players excelled in,” explained Monson.

In addition to Silas Stewart, Micah Awe and Cameron Judge, the linebacker unit includes Americans Perry Young and Shaq Smith, Canadians Charlie Moore, Brad Cowan and Josiah Schakel and global player Ryan Gomes.

“Everybody impressed me in pre-season last year,” said Monson. “Everybody excelled in pre-season when they had the opportunity to play, they had pretty good games. And then sparingly throughout the season, obviously when they got their opportunities, everyone pitched in a bit.

“I would like to see some of the younger guys show me that they’re able to play on defence and not just special teams. As well as some of the guys that got more defensive snaps have to step up now and try to win a job.

“They have to come in with the mindset of ‘I’m trying to win a job, coming to run to the ball, coming to make plays’, and then see how it all kind of shakes out from there.”