February 20, 2023

O’Leary: Awe another perfect fit Stamps signing

We went into the weekend talking about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and all of the moves they’ve made since the free agent market opened up on Valentine’s Day.

As we come out of this long weekend, there’s something interesting on the opposite end of the flurry of signings we’ve seen that we haven’t fully talked about yet. The Calgary Stampeders have been the second-most quiet team thus far, having signed defensive lineman Julian Howsare on the opening day of free agency, re-signing defensive back Branden Dozier on Feb. 15 and adding linebacker Micah Awe on Feb. 17.

As’s Jim Morris wrote when he looked at the addition of Howsare on Sunday, freshly-named general manager and longtime head coach Dave Dickenson went and got himself a player that can do a lot of things well.

“Julian brings a little more versatility that we lost when (Folarin Orimolade) didn’t sign back on,” said Dickenson.

“Julian is a hard-nosed and versatile player. He’s always played well against us.”

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» Awe Struck: Stampeders sign LB Micah Awe

Dickenson mentioned the other side of the free agency coin for his team. They’ve seen six of their players sign with other clubs this past week. Linebackers Jameer Thurman and Fraser Sopik, d-linemen Stefen Banks and Orimolade, receiver Shawn Bane Jr. and defensive back Javien Elliott have all moved on.

Similar to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Stamps have stayed quiet and made effective moves with their few signings this past week. In the same way that Dickenson sought out a do-it-all d-lineman in Howsare, Friday’s announcement of Awe’s arrival is one that here in February feels like a perfect fit for a team that has a history of making these matches.

Awe, 29, has been a hard-hitting and productive linebacker in each of his previous four CFL stops. Last year with the Montreal Alouettes, Awe had 47 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 13 games. A shoulder injury kept him out of the team’s final regular-season game and both playoff dates. He makes the move to Calgary, where he should fit in perfectly with defensive coordinator Brent Monson and linebackers coach Bob Slowik.

He has 250 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and five forced fumbles through 63 career games in the CFL.

“I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of anything I can do,” Awe confidently told CHQR in Calgary on a Friday night interview.

“I’ve yet to get an All-Star, an MOP. I think — I know — I have all the ability in the world but I have not yet scratched it. I’m on my sixth year but I feel like a rookie. I have the same feeling I had (in 2017) as a second string behind Solomon (Elimimian). I thought, ‘He’s a future hall of famer, I don’t care. I’m going to take his spot.’ I ended up playing next to him instead. I plan on getting closer to my potential.”

Lining up next to Cameron Judge, who went through a career-defining season himself in Calgary in 2022, Awe is in position to have a great season and will get a chance to help fill the void left by Thurman. If Awe can partner up with Judge as well as Thurman did, the Stamps’ defence may not skip a beat this season.

“Cam is defintely someone I’ve looked at. If he’s making plays I want to make plays next to him and make it a competition in itself,” Awe said.

Awe told CHQR that the Stamps were an organization he’d long admired, starting with his first exposure to the CFL through Wally Buono, whose ties to the Stamps run deep, with the Lions six years ago.

“Of all the teams in the CFL, Calgary has been that one team that’s a flagship of how to run an organization. Every single year, even when it’s a struggling year they find a way to make the playoffs. that’s sometime I’ve respected from afar,” Awe said.

The Stamps, as they often are at this time of year, have been quiet but made moves that suit them well. As they’ve shifted from John Hufnagel to Dickenson making the moves as GM, they appear to have offset some key personnel losses with players that can fit in and contribute right away.