HEART AND SOUL: Could Redblacks star returner DeVonte Dedmon be the next Speedy B? – Toronto Sun

Author of the article:

Tim Baines  •  Postmedia

Ottawa Redblacks receiver/returner DeVonte Dedmon.
Ottawa Redblacks receiver/returner DeVonte Dedmon. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia Network

Moments after a disappointing 23-20 loss to the Toronto Argos on the TD Place home field Saturday, superstar punt/kickoff returner DeVonte Dedmon wiped his moist eyes, fighting off the tears.


The soon-to-be 26-year-old (his birthday is Nov. 23) had just been asked during a post-game Zoom media call why in the week leading into Saturday’s game he had signed a one-year contract extension to return to the Redblacks, who will in two weeks wrap up what has been a season gone wrong. Dedmon paused and, with plenty of emotion, answered the question.

“I love this organization,” he said. “They took a chance on a guy from William & Mary (University). I got sent home. I came back. It’s been a journey. I love this city, man. There’s no other place I’d rather be.”

The Redblacks’ fan base loves Dedmon. On Saturday, he delivered the goods again, running the second-half kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown. It was electrifying, taking the more than 18,000 fans on another joy ride in a season where the train derailed along the way. With five return touchdowns in his first 15 CFL games, Dedmon now holds a CFL record (Gizmo Williams had five touchdowns in his first 18 games).


Another Zoom call question Saturday from the TSN post-game hosts: “What is going through your mind right now?”

“I worked hard for this,” said Dedmon, with wetness still in his eyes. “My family pushed me. I’m just very grateful for this opportunity. I’m happy to be part of this team. I know things aren’t going well, but I’m never going to give up on anything.”

When you think about buying a Redblacks jersey, go with No. 17 — DeVonte Dedmon. There are some really good dudes, good players in that locker room and Dedmon is up there with any of them. He’s humble, he’s got heart, he’s got character and his work ethic is off the charts. His teammates love him and he loves them back. In his second CFL season, he’s become a star on and off the field.


When asked about his latest touchdown run, he said: “It’s my teammates, man. When I look at them, it gives me confidence. From where I come from, I don’t want to go back. Every time I get that ball in my hands, I’m going to do what I can for the Redblacks organization.”

Yeah, he’s what being a Redblack should be about.

Here’s the thing the Redblacks will have to spend time thinking about going forward, as they try to push past a season that now sees them stuck with a 2-11 record, with only a Nov. 19 game in Montreal remaining: How do they get Dedmon more involved, while keeping him healthy and on the football field? Without playing much on offence, he is their best offence.

Dedmon was a standout in his first CFL training camp – in 2019. He had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but was injured (strained hamstring) in the team’s final tuneup for the regular season. With doctors telling Dedmon he’d be out 4-6 weeks, the Redblacks “suspended” him. Dedmon went home to Williamsburg and worked hard, hoping he’d get another shot. The Redblacks gave it to him. In early August of 2019, he scored two return touchdowns — on a 111-yard kickoff return and a 95-yard highlight-reel punt return where he broke six or seven tackles.


Fast forward to 2021. Before getting injured (ankle/knee) Oct. 16, then missing two games, he was in the middle of another superb season. He had returned 41 punts for 637 yards and two touchdowns, while also returning 41 kickoffs for 1,011 yards. On offence, he had 10 catches for 98 yards and had rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

With a different body type, could Dedmon become another Speedy B (Brandon Banks)? The terrific Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019 when he led the league in receptions (112), receiving yards (1,550), receiving touchdowns (13) and touchdowns scored (16). Back in 2015, Banks was named the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player when he scored four touchdowns on punt returns, averaging 12.40 yards per touch. He wasn’t an impact player on offence — he had 22 catches for 220 yards. It wasn’t until 2017 he started getting the steady work on offence; he had years of 1,011 and 1,423 yards in catches before his MOP season. So maybe that’s the route Dedmon will take?


“You want to start building packages for him as a tailback and receiver,” said Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice. “But you also don’t want to work him too hard. Man, he plays so hard, he seems banged up after every game. He does a helluva job. We have to continue to grow and teach him how to play other spots.

“He’s an outstanding professional. He plays at such a high level; our players love playing for him. He makes everybody around him better, he makes them block harder, work harder. That’s what you need. He’s a great special teams player, one of the best.”

When asked if he looks forward to getting more offensive touches, Dedmon said: “You know me. Those what-ifs, I’m not about that. I’m about doing my job, staying focused on the little things and everything else will work out. I’m excited to come back. I’m excited to see where we go from here.”


It’ll be a bye week for the Redblacks to watch film and digest how they really let one slip away. They had three interceptions and forced a fumble deep in Toronto territory. But they couldn’t capitalize. With wasted opportunities aplenty and three missed field goals, the Redblacks got just one offensive touchdown, a quarterback sneak by Caleb Evans. They couldn’t close out a game they led (13-9) at halftime.

“We’ve talked about trying to start faster in the second half,” said LaPolice. “We moved the ball a bit in this second half, we just didn’t execute and finish it for points. Offensively, we have to do more.”

Sort of a broken record, right?


Offence C: Making his CFL starting debut, QB Duck Hodges completed 8 of 22 passes for 90 yards. He also rushed four times for 25 yards. He was running for his life much of the second half. It didn’t work out well. Asked to assess his performance, he said: “When you lose a game at the quarterback position, it’s never good enough. So obviously it wasn’t good enough. I know I missed some open guys, it’s something to grow and get better at.” Running back Timothy Flanders had his best game as a Redblack, with 95 yards rushing, but 87 of those were in the first half.


Defence A-: Some huge plays, including three interceptions — by Brandin Dandridge, Avery Williams and Randall Evans. But there were also some big gaps in the secondary, especially in the second half as Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson munched up big yardage with his arm. Stefan Charles and Cleyon Laing had sacks, but the pass rush needed to get more in Bethel-Thompson’s face.

Special Teams B+: A spectacular 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by DeVonte Dedmon, a forced fumble and recovery deep in Toronto territory by Shaheed Salmon. Four special teams tackles by Kene Onyeka. All great. But the usually consistent and superb Lewis Ward missed three of five field goals.

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