The Last of a Dying Breed: The Old-School QB Assassins
When I harken back to my formative years as a young CFL fan, I am invariably drawn, time and time again to the old school seek and destroy defensive ends. In the '90s and early 2000s, the league was fraught with sack specialists and the bulk of these athletes were just straight-up characters. Hop in folks, we are headed down memory lane, CFL style.
The first DE that I remember is one Bobby Jurasin of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. As a young lad, "Bobby J" instantly became my favourite CFL player and I'm proud to say that he still is to this day! The rising sun bandana that Jurasin wore under his helmet was trendsetting and when I attended my first game at Taylor Field, there were kids everywhere donning the ol’ Jurasin trademark, I was hooked. A tenacious QB pursuer and an even better human being, Bobby had 22 sacks in 1987 and currently sits in the number 3 slot in all-time CFL sacks.
The next rush end I think of when this subject comes up is Elfrid Payton! This cat was a complete and utter QB sacking cyborg of some sort. The well-travelled "Swack" played for 6 different CFL franchises which included 3 separate stints in Winnipeg. I can still see Payton performing his patented "praying mantis" sack dance after ragdolling yet another QB. Payton sits at number 2 in all-time CFL sacks at 154. Elfrid's son and namesake has carved out a very solid career in the NBA and is currently a point guard for the New York Knicks.
Bring up the name Joe Montford in the presence of any CFL QB that lined up against him and you are likely to be met with a contemptuous glare coming back at you. I remember this bad hombre bending the corner at full speed with his massive shoulder pads pointed downhill at an unsuspecting quarterback and bang. Though his glory days were split between two stints in Hamilton, Joe also showed productivity while suiting up for the Edmonton Football Team as well as brief periods in Argo blue and Shreveport where Montford broke into the league. This menace of a man has sacked CFL quarterbacks 135 times and sits in the #5 spot in all-time sacks. A handful of defensive ends that still employ this somewhat irresponsible, albeit exciting method of defending are current players Charleston Hughes, Odell Willis and Shawn Lemon.
Now "Chucky" Hughes I consider a little differently than the aforementioned Willis and Lemon. Charleston has lead the CFL in sacks for the last four years and is on record as saying he is coming back to the Roughriders in 2021. The soon to be 37 years old has tallied 130 sacks in his CFL career, placing him at number 6 on the all-time list.
Shawn Lemon is a true pass rusher and has shown complete indifference to the point of callousness when he is asked to do anything on the field that does not entail rushing the pivot. I guess if you are going to be a one-trick pony, do it and do it well. The "Lemonator" has done just that in his mind-boggling 15 stops in 9 years, racking up 70 sacks in the CFL.
Another guy you just love to hate is the "Mouth of the South" Odell Willis, this man has garnered 101 sacks spread over 10 stops and a handful of leagues. "OD" is just one of those guys that you love to have on your team and downright hate to play against.
Another QB sacking dynamo that I have to mention is Mr. Cameron Wake. The CFL's sack leader in each of his 2 seasons with the BC Lions, he bounced to the NFL in 2008 and has been one of the greatest play disruptors down south for over a decade!
Sadly, these mavericks of football conventions seem to be a dying breed. I do not expect to see Lemon, Willis or Wake suit up again but I sure hope I'm wrong.
The Toronto Raptors have dug themselves a little bit of a whole in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final inside the NBA bubble in Orlando against the Boston Celtics. Game six comes tonight with the Raptors likely missing Serge Ibaka. The series has been full of ups and downs, but you should never underestimate the heart of a champion. #WeTheNorth baby, Let's Go!
Stay safe sports fans, 'til next time