Ex-Cats

They played for Kentucky years ago. Now they are Canadian Football League champions.

The Calgary Stampeders celebrated with the Grey Cup after defeating the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League championship game in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday night.
The Calgary Stampeders celebrated with the Grey Cup after defeating the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League championship game in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday night. The Canadian Press via AP

The Canadian Football League determined its champions Sunday night, and former Kentucky Wildcats Micah Johnson and Chris Matthews helped lead the Calgary Stampeders to the title.

The Stampeders, who had lost in the Grey Cup championship the past two seasons, got it done this time around with a 27-16 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks in Edmonton, Alberta. It was the Stamps’ eighth title and first since 2014.

Johnson, the Stampeders’ candidate for the league’s most outstanding defensive player award, made three tackles.

“It seems like we’ve been grinding for this for a few years, so desperate is actually paying off — it’s unbelievable,” Johnson told the Calgary Sun. “We’re a tough team — we’re a resilient team. That’s why there was no doubt in anybody’s mind even throughout the adversities of this game.”

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the CFL’s most outstanding player this season after throwing a league-best 35 TD passes, was also named the Grey Cup MVP. He threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson, a defensive tackle who played linebacker in college at UK after winning the 2005 Kentucky Mr. Football award while at Fort Campbell, finished second in the CFL with 14 quarterback sacks. The 30-year-old Johnson also had an interception and forced three fumbles during the regular season.

In a story posted to the CFL’s website ahead of the game, Johnson talked about how the position switch saved his career after several attempts to make it in the NFL as a linebacker didn’t work out.

“I was kind of a big linebacker going out of style anyway,” the 30-year-old Johnson, who went undrafted by the NFL in 2010, said. “Just being cut as many times as I have been, I wanted to make a team. ...

“It wasn’t that hard of a transition for me. Being a linebacker, there is way more on your plate, a lot more to look at, a lot more to study. You have to get guys lined up as well as yourself. D-line is actually kind of simple. You deal with the guy in front of you, that’s pretty much it.”

Matthews, who was in the conversation for the Super Bowl XLIX MVP award in 2016 before the New England Patriots eventually defeated the Seattle Seahawks, caught four passes for 59 yards Sunday night.

“I’m a champion,” Matthews, 29, said afterward, according to the CFL’s website. “It’s about this right now. We won. It’s about the Grey Cup 2018. We won that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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