Interview with Jeshrun Antwi, running back of the Montreal Alouettes. Discussing the upcoming matchup against the Toronto Argonauts in the East Finals. Topics include the game day preparations as well as thoughts on various players and teams throughout the league.
Jeshrun Antwi rushed 39 times for the Alouettes this season for 229 yards (5.87 average). Last season Antwi rushed 106 times for 600 yards (5.7 average). Anwi has over 1,000 yards so far 3 seasons into his CFL career. Antwi is also a key part of the Alouettes’ special teams.
Stream the East Final 11/11/2023, 3 PM EST (12 PM PST) for free outside of Canada here:
The West Final will be at 6:30 PM EST (3:30 PM PST)
Alouettes East Finals Reading:
CFL Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes (12-7) at Toronto Argonauts (16-2) Preview
Jeshrun Antwi of the Montreal Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Finals
Reflecting on the CFL East Semi-Finals Montreal 27, Hamilton 12: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats
Lions West Finals Reading:
CFL Western Final: BC Lions (13-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4) Preview
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Finals Against Winnipeg
Reflecting on the CFL West Semi-Finals BC 41, Calgary 30: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats:
CFL Eastern Semi-Final Preview: Montreal Alouettes (11-7) vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10)
Reggie Stubblefield of the Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Semi-Finals Against Hamilton
CFL Western Semi-Final: Preview BC Lions (12-6) vs Calgary Stampeders (6-12)
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Semi-Finals Against Calgary
Montreal Alouettes Week 21 Extended Report
Mike Mitchell’s Final Power Rankings
Predicting the Rest of the CFL Season
CFL 2nd Period All-Star Team (Weeks 8-14)
CFL Midseason All-Star Team, Awards
First Period CFL and Divisional All-Stars
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Montreal’s special teams covering punts, especially in the last few games have been really exceptional to me. Last week, I spoke to Reggie Stubblefield, and he mentioned the preparation of looking at who the opponent has on special teams. Last week, you were one of the players that I thought had a really good special teams tackle on a return against Hamilton.
Could you share a little bit about Montreal’s mentality towards special teams in the day-to-day approach?
“Yeah. For sure. I think it starts with our special teams coordinator, Byron Archambault, you know. And I have to credit him because he makes playing for special teams feel like. You know usually, special teams is sort of that growing part of the team, It’s the grunt work, if you will, right.”
“It’s like you have the offense and the defense, offense starters, defense starters. And so, you know, usually, it’s like guys don’t want to play special teams, but Byron has, both Byron and coach Maas, they emphasize on playing the special teams and what it means to play on special teams. And so I think it really starts with him and the schemes that he comes up with. And, like, Stubblefield said, you watch the tape. I watch special teams like I’m studying the opponent’s defense, you know, so when we’re playing, whichever team we’re playing, I’m watching special teams. I’m putting the same time in as I am watching the defense, and I think that’s the case for every guy that plays it. And that’s why we take pride in that. We pride ourselves on being able to, one, get our returners as much yards as possible.
No matter who’s there, as you saw with Chandler Worthy and now with, JJ Letcher and also on being on cover team, you know, like on punt on kickoff.”
“You know, we have our special teams’ captain number 34, Alex Gagne, who I call him the general. He’s the one that man’s all the special teams because he’s so smart. He sees everything. He calls out everything. And so I think it’s just really like it’s a mindset, you know. We have no egos in our team, and we’re willing to do whatever needs to be done to win a game.”
It’s interesting you say no ego too because it looks like total buy-in on special teams because you see guys like Tyrice Beverrette and Reggie Stubblefield, they go out and they cover a punt and they really hard out there, and then they gotta go back out and play defense.
“Yeah absolutely. Like I said, coach Maas has placed such emphasis on that. And, Bev, you know, that’s how he, he kind of cut his teeth in his league as he was with Hamilton. I remember my first year in the league going against Bev on kickoff and on punts. He’s just such a good athlete and, you know, but I mean, bottom line, it comes down to effort, you know. Just his mindset that nobody is going to stop me both defensively and on special teams. And I think that’s how they’re able to do that.”
Last week, Montreal had really good success on the ground with Standback getting 95 yards on 18 carries. Through the season, I’ve written a lot about how Montreal’s offense is much healthier and balanced when the run game is being incorporated, just overall stronger play on offense, and the pass protection is much better. We also saw it was 6 total QB pressures last week. So I believe Montreal’s offense plays a lot better with a strong mix of run plays. And I was wondering what your thoughts are on that.
“I mean, I think in the CFL if you’re able to run a ball, it gets you in shorter, you know, 2nd and short, 2nd and 3, 2nd and 4. I remember when I was in high school, my high school football coach, Ian Couture, he always used to tell me when I was playing running back, he used to tell me, get me 6 yards on a 1st down carry. Right. If you’re able to get me 6 yards, their whole playbook is open. So then on 2nd and 4, 2nd and 3, 2nd and short, you can run or pass. Right. And so I think in the Canadian football leagues unlike down south, if you’re able to get a run game going, you’re absolutely right, it opens up a lot. And if you watch the team, so let’s say the top teams, you know, BC, they’re more of a aerial attack, which is fine. They have the personnel for that. But if you watch Winnipeg and Toronto.”
“You have, you know, Winnipeg with Brady, who’s a bell cow back, you know, he can catch it. He can run out of the backfield, he can pass protect. And then in Toronto, you have AJ Ouellette, right. Very physical back, tough matchup, stands in, and then they even have Andrew Harris. And before I think 21 got injured, he would come in there and do something too.”
“So to be able to, I think, have an offense that, like you said, to be efficient and to click and to win ball games, you need to be able to establish a run. And I feel like in the back end of our year we have started to kind of find our groove and we’re just peeking at the right moment.”
I asked a question last week when I talked to Tibo Debaillie and Reggie Stubblefield. I have a hunch where I feel like the team that does the combination of the best running of the football and the best stopping of the run is going to be the team to win the Grey Cup. What do you think of that thought that I have?
“Yeah. I mean, I think you’re definitely on something with that. If you look around the league, precisely like you’re saying, you know, both squads. So Toronto, they led the league in turnover battles. So, you know, as far as not turning the ball over and also getting opponents to turn the ball over.”
“Winnipeg, they have been one of the best teams, for the past 5 years, right. They’ve been in Grey Cups. They have a solid defense, you know. You got Jeffcoat, you have Willie, you have guys on the inside, you got Bighill. You know, guys that again, solid defenses, and I feel like Toronto has started to come into their own.”
“And so I think name of the game, if you were to stop the run, get the offense on the field, you give extra possessions to your offense. And then if you’re able to run a ball, you keep the other offense off the field. Right.”
“So, for example, with that and Toronto, you know, they have a good run game. They were the best team in the league, 16 and 2, you know, keeping Chad Kelly on a bench and that offense on the bench will be paramount to us winning games. And then when they’re on the field, our defense has to be able to get them off the field as much as possible or as quick as possible will also be key for us. So just kinda playing those games and, you know, the chess match between both teams, I think it’s very crucial.”
Coming back to the end of the last game with a scuffle where you and Cibasu both left and entered the field. I was wondering if you could walk us through what your perspective on that moment was and just kind of what you were thinking of from where you were standing.
“Yeah. I mean, you know, right away, I knew I shouldn’t have run onto the field. However Jake Harty, we went to the same college, you know, that’s a Dino alum. Our alumni is like a fraternity. He’s a very good friend of mine. We train the offseason together. So outside of football, he’s just a good friend of mine, right.”
“And, the other guy, it looked like he just had them on the ground. He was swinging and you know, my natural instinct is that, defend a teammate, you know. Now I’m aware that you should not leave the bench when things like that happen, because that’s how escalation happens, right. You know, you look at malice in the palace, right. So it’s like, I understand that.”
“And, you know, if I could go back, I probably wouldn’t have done that. But, just from my perspective, it’s just, you know, it was sorta kinda like, it’s not something that I thought about too much of it. You know, it just, I kind of saw it. I reacted, had to defend the teammate and that was that. And, like you said, you know, it came down to a suspension for him and a fine for me, and we just and, we will deal with that and we’re moving on.
One thing that came through my mind is, when I was watching it again, it reminded me a little bit of the old Canadians, Nordiques fights when they used to clear the benches. With talk in the last couple of years about CFL expansion. What do you think a team in Quebec would do for the CFL?
“Well, I think I think it would be incredible. You know in 2016, I believe, we played Laval, in the Vanier Cup. And I know they have a rich history of football out there in Quebec. And then we obviously played the Vanier Cup, when I was at the UC in 2019. And even though Laval wasn’t playing there, we played UDM. The stands were so packed. And so I think they have a rich history of football, rich culture of football.”
“And so with the Alouette now starting to get back in the ranks of being like a good football team again. I think a football team in Quebec, it would sort of kinda be like the perfect driver if you will, ou know. Having a a team In Quebec, that’s that’s very good. The fans were gonna come out and show up. And so I think if an expansion team was out there, it’d be perfect.”
Looking ahead to this game against Toronto, what do you think is the most vital part that Montreal needs to shut down to win the game?
“I think it’s a run game. It goes back to the run game, you know. We need to make sure we control the line of scrimmage defensively. And we need to make sure we are establishing a line of scrimmage offensively. I think it’s as simple as that.”
“And, you know, play disciplined football like we have we have been this whole year. Have each other’s back, pick this game plan, and quite frankly, it’s going to be a good match. I’m excited about this one, because it’s an opportunity to go to the Grey Cup, you know. And you don’t know how many of these you’re going you’re going to get. So we’re looking forward to it, really.”
If you were a part of Toronto’s organization looking at the Alouettes, what do you think would be the most key part to shut down?
“I mean I think, you know, we’re a team that finds multiple ways to win. And so I think you gotta come prepared. You know, I’ve seen some interviews. I don’t think that they’re resting on their laurels even though they won 16 regular season games this year. When you look at coach dealing with, he talks about that doesn’t matter right now. It’s a whole new ballgame. It’s win and you’re in. And so I think for them, they’re preparing for us just as much as we’re we are preparing for them. And, yeah, it’s going to be a different one.”
Last season I was really impressed by your level of play when Stanback was injured and Walter Fletcher’s too. You had really impressive yards per carry, reaching 600 yards. This year too, you had slightly higher yards per carry. This year of course is very different with Stanback not missing as much time. Did it bother you at all a little bit that there were so much less carries for you this season, or is it more so just you understand what your job is type of thing?
“Yeah. I mean, I understand why I was able to play as much as I did last year coming into the season. You know, when Standback’s healthy, he’s one of the best running backs in the league, and so I understand my role. Like, you hear a lot of backup quarterbacks say this every year when they do interviews, they prepare as if they’re going to start and they prepare as if they’re going to play. And I think to me, nothing changes. I was just as much home. I prepare the same way every week, week in and week out. I’m in a weight room. I do everything on a consistent basis because I understand it could take 1 play. It could take, you know, 1 drive or series.”
“No matter what it is, when my number gets called, I need to be ready to go. And so no coming into this year, I was not bothered at all, knowing the kind of player that Stanback is. And I think if you, if you talk to Fletcher, both him and I, we think alike. You know, we watch film together with the same people kinda in a way that we prepare like we’re going to play. And when our number gets called, we’re good to go.”
You talked a little bit about your thoughts on Toronto’s running backs. What do you think of the running backs out in the west who are starting with, Brady Oliveira and Taquan Mizzel?
“Yeah, Brady, you know, he’s a Canadian starting, and me personally, this may seem a little biased, but every time I see any Canadian in defense, offense, like you know, Matthieu Betts, played against him in college. Anytime I see any Canadian starting on the field, to me, it just, I’m ecstatic, you know. I’m hoping to, I know we don’t play on the same team, but I’m hoping to do well because that is how we’re going to pave the way. But, yeah, Brady, I think the top back can run it, can pass block, can catch out of the backfield, tough runner. You know, gets the tough yards, can also burst open in the open field.”
“Taquan Mizzell, I understand it’s his 1st year in the league. Obviously, like I said, BC, more of a aerial attack, but they have a good offensive line. And when they need to run the ball they do a pretty good job.”
“But you know, I think Brady’s just, he’s just a physical tough back, hard to bring down. And, you know, and also Winnipeg’s offensive line, you know, they have some dogs up on the offensive line. And so I think it’s going to be a tough matchup as far as that game, but I expect both to make a good impression on the game.”
Ahead of the game what what kind of music are you gonna be listening to before the match?
“Man, I’m not much of a rah-rah guy. Like, I personally, I feel like I don’t need motivation to play football. It’s just kind of like what I need to do. And so it’s my job, but most of the time I have, I either have, like a psychology podcast going on, or I’m listening to say, Kobe Bryant, you know motivational video, or like a Michael Jordan motivational video, just kind of those things. I’m not so much, you know, a guy that needs to listen to music per se. It’s more so kind of just hearing affirmations and kinda repeating things myself about how the game is gonna go and what I’m going to do to win my matchup.”
“I’m not sure when I made the switch, but I think it was back in college. I listened to podcasts about just, you know, like, mental strength, mental toughness, mental aptitude, you know, just being able to when things aren’t going your way adversity, how you’re gonna climb out of it.
Or, like I said, I was listening to, like, Kobe Bryant. He’s my favorite basketball player, so kinda listening to him talk about what it takes to be great and to achieve greatness. Just kind of looking for things like that as well is what I do before games.”
Do you wanna make a prediction on who’s going to win the West game?
“I guess to me looking at it, You know, Vernon Adams is my guy and I never wanna bet against him. However, I feel like that Winnipeg ground attack and the experience that they have on the defense side of the ball and on the offense side of the ball. So I’m going to give them the slight edge. So I think Winnipeg comes out of that game.”
I have a very weird theory about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the cold probably goes against everything says where, I’ve watched so I’ve watched Collaros play pretty closely in the playoffs, and it it surprises me. He actually has more interceptions than touchdowns in the playoffs over his time with the Bombers. I feel like he’s been great in those moments, but I don’t think he’s been as good overall in the playoffs as in the regular season over that time. So I have a theory that I call the Zach Colaros Turtleneck Theorem, where I think that he gets too cold, and so if he’s sleeveless BC is gonna win, and I think if he’s if he’s wearing sleeves, I think Winnipeg’s gonna win.
“Interesting. Yeah. I mean, I do not know about those stats, but I feel like Zach, he’s again, he’s a seasoned vet. We’re talking about a team that’s been in what the last 3 Grey Cups lost 2. Well, no. Won 2 lost 1. And so, I mean, to me in the playoffs, anything could happen, but, you know, history, the case you, you go with a team that’s been there before and they know what they’re walking into. And like you said, they’re playing at home, right. In the cold, you know, they’re going to establish a run. And I think when they do establish a run they’re a tough team to beat. And so yeah, will be interesting to see for sure.”
Do you have any playoff superstitions or any superstitions going into game day preparation?
“I mean, no, not necessarily. I just Gotta make sure I do the same things. You know kind of wake-up, shower. When we’re on the road, shower I think, an hour or an hour and a half before I have to get on a bus. They’re kinda those things, you know, do the same things, maintain the same routines, and yeah try not to change anything. It’s a playoff game, it’s a Eastern final, it’s a big game. But at the end of the day, you gotta show up, and you gotta play between those lines. So I don’t put too much into Superstitions.”
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