BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
A Saskatchewan football legend, Austin helped bring a Grey Cup to the province once as a quarterback and then again 18 years later as a head coach. He was prolific in his seven years there as a player, meanwhile as a coach he was one and done before leaving for the college ranks.
Neither of those wins however were actually in Regina, which he now has a chance to do for the first time ever – only, as a member of the Ticats. Hm.
The #101GC is going to have even more meaning for at least three members of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this weekend, three guys who have been members of the other side before.
Henry Burris, Andy Fantuz, Luca Congi and Kent Austin.
Henry Burris – QB (Saskatchewan Roughriders 2000-2004)
Burris was going to be on this list anyway, whether it was against the Riders or the Stamps. It’s been a long time since he suited up in Green and White, but to Roughriders fans, it seems like it was only yesterday.
Andy Fantuz – SB (Saskatchewan Roughriders 2006-2011)
This may be the most sensitive topic of the week for Riders fans, as Fantuz said goodbye to the Roughriders in order to move closer to home with the Ticats. There’s little doubt he’ll feel the wrath of the hometown faithful on Sunday, the only question is how will the Ticats’ go-to receiver respond? He was no doubt one of the team’s best two players last weekend in Toronto during the East final. He caught the first two TD passes of the day for the ‘Cats, and he nearly sealed the victory with a near-catch with just over a minute left in the game. It will be interesting to see what he can come up with for the finale.
Luca Congi – Kicker (Saskatchewan Roughriders 2006-2010)
After being released by the Riders following the 2011 season, Congi had a career season in 2012 by leading the league in kickoffs and connecting on 40 of 45 field goal attempts. Wouldn’t he love to go into Mosaic and sink his former team on a game-winning kick?
|For the first time since 1989, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will meet in the Grey Cup.
Two premier pivots battle as Henry Burris looks to give Hamilton its first championship in 14 year while Darian Durant also looks to lead the Riders their first Grey Cup with a storybook victory on home field.
The Ticats stunned the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern Final Sunday with a 36-24 win while the Roughriders handled the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Final 35-13.
Kent Austin was the first person down the stairs and into a crowd of fans and reporters at Regina International Airport.
First greeted by cheers from Ticat and Rider fans alike, he signed some autographs and shook some hands – all the meanwhile looking like someone who had just returned home after a very long time away.
“This place means a lot to me,” Austin said.
Maybe the feeling hasn’t entirely sunk in for Austin and fellow former Roughriders Burris and Fantuz, all of whom played pivotal roles in the Ticats returning to the Grey Cup for the first time since 1999.
But it’s without a doubt starting to.
For Burris this was something he’s dreamed of all season.
“When the season started I was talking to my father back home and he was like ‘man, it would be amazing if you were able to help get the team to Regina, a place that you got your first opportunity to truly show yourself worthy in this league as far as being a starter’,” reflected Burris.
“I’m still thankful for that, to be able to come here and play in this game and enjoy this week with the fans and be a part of it as a player,” he continued. “It’s definitely right where you want to be.”
Fantuz will likely be in for the most hostile of returns to Riderville, as the wound he left remains fresh for many Rider fans.
He’s only in his second season as a Tiger-Cat since leaving Regina as a free agent in order to be closer to home, and seeing as he wasn’t fit to play in the teams’ only meeting in Saskatchewan during the regular season it’s been a while since he’s played a game here.
“I’m really excited to be back here,” said Fantuz. “This city’s done so much for me and it’s been a big part of my life.”
He’s most excited to go against former teammates and fans, even though he’ll likely be public enemy number one this week.
“I’m excited to go against them,” he said. “I always cheer for them when we’re not playing them, but this week is going to be a little bit different so I hope everyone plays well and stays healthy but we’re here to win.”
Burris on the other hand is much further removed from his time as a Rider, although he still expects to be booed come game time.
“If they didn’t I’d be disappointed,” said Burris. “I mean this is like a second home for me so I expect the fans on game day to be ruthless, but during the week we’re going to have some good times together.”
Like sibling rivalry was how he summed up his relationship with Rider fans.
“When it comes game day we’re competing, it’s like a brother and sister competing and may the best person win on that given day because they know I’m here to win, I know they want to win, they’re supporting their team,” said Burris.
“Their team’s done a phenomenal job this year and what better opportunity for the Rider faithful than being able to watch their home team play home here at Mosaic Stadium in the Grey Cup, and here we are; we’re the bad guys coming in now.”