All-star linebacker Micah Awe sets sights on turnover bonanza for Stampeders

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Micah Awe has his sights set on a new standard this year.

After registering more tackles in a single season than any other Calgary Stampeders with his effort in 2023, the all-star linebacker is targeting a turnovers record.

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Yeah … the colourful character wants to visit the bakery at least once per game.

“Just get the ball — that’s my goal,” said the ever-optimistic and super-ambitious Awe. “I got to the ball 134 times last year. Now I need to get the ball when I get to the ball.

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“If I can get the ball 10 per cent of the time I get there, that’s 13 forced fumbles — that’s 13 turnovers,” continued Awe. “And turnover ratio is what’s going to help us win the game.

“So if I can get at least one a game and everyone can bank on that, then at least we’re going to be plus-one, which puts us already at 65 per cent to win the game. If I can do two a game, that puts us at 80, 85, 90 per cent.”

That’s one high mark — a tough one to reach.

But thinking that way is what made Awe a CFL all-star — and club record-setter — last season.

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His 134 tackles was the most ever made by a Stampeders player in the franchise’s 80-year history. And the 5-foot-11, 228-lb. dynamo defender was tracking such a standard from the first snap of the campaign.

While his performance definitely helped the defence, it didn’t — ultimately — get them the Grey Cup. Or anywhere close to it.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, forget the past,’” Awe said. “Noooo … I remember the past, because I know how I felt and it makes my decisions in the off-season. So in my off-season, I was just working on speed and getting to the ball, because I feel if I got to the ball 134 times, how many times can I give the ball back to the offence.

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“If I make less tackles this season, then we’re off the field more.”

With 384 tackles in six CFL years, the smart money is on the linebacker from Nigeria, indeed, being around the ball plenty enough — again — in 2024.

Awe will helps lead the charge, along — of course — with fellow CFL veteran and talent Cam Judge, from the linebacker position for the Stamps.

The addition of 10th-year CFL vet Adam Konar, who returns to McMahon Stadium after a decade removed from starring for the U SPORTS’ Calgary Dinos, gives them even more firepower at linebacker.

The other Canadian linebacker joining Judge, 29, and Konar, 30, is former Dinos star and Vancouverite Micah Teitz, a 28-year-old who spent the last four seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

And other American ’backers alongside Awe, 30, in camp are third-year Stamps-talent Darius Williams, 27 — who was mostly a special-teams star last year — and fresh faces Cam Bright, 25, and Shaheed Salmon, 28 — who spent the last three years with the Ottawa RedBlacks.

That crew doesn’t include those defensive backs the Stamps are experimenting with at strong-side linebacker.

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But it’s Awe in the middle again.

And he’s relishing the prospect of being the centrepiece of the same defensive scheme for two years in a row for the first time since senior year of high school.

He had five different defensive coordinators in four years of college ball with the NCAA Texas Tech Red Raiders. And he’s endured a similar pattern in the pros, since Awe has moved around a ton, having played on eight different teams over the seven seasons prior to joining the Stamps ahead of last year.

“One day, Deion Sanders was mad that a player of his calibre was moving from team to team,” said Awe, taking his nomad-like football past in stride. “It was like, ‘How is that nobody wants to keep me?’ But then later on, he realized it was a blessing.

“Me going from team to team, it’s for a reason. God has a reason. God has a plan. I feel like there’s a reason why I’m going from team to team. It’s up to me to just do my best, and it’s all going to come down to one moment, and I think that moment is going to be a championship.”

How about one this year, Micah?

“I always think the reason is this year — that’s who I am,” Awe said. “You ask me Week 1 or Week 11, I’m going to say, ‘It’s for a championship.’ You ask me on Week 24, I’m going to say, ‘It was for a championship.’”

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A takeaway or two from him every game?

That would certainly help towards that goal of the Grey Cup.

“That’s what the greatest defences do, that’s what the greatest linebackers do, that’s what the greatest ball players do … they have the ball in their hands,” added Awe. “My only goal is do whatever I can do to help this team win a championship. My thing is any play that comes by way, I’m going to make.”

SHORT YARDAGE

The Stampeders have signed American defensive lineman Jacques Bristol. The Florida native recently attended rookie mini-camp with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. In 57 career games over five years with the NCAA’s Central Michigan Chippewas, Bristol amassed 144 tackles including 28 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and six passes defended. The 5-foot-11, 284-pound lineman was a second-team all-Mid-American Conference star last year after recording 44 tackles including eight tackles for loss, four sacks and one fumble recovery in 12 games for the Chippewas … Also Monday, the Red and White released American defensive back Carlins Platel … The Stamps line up for their second — and final — pre-season tilt Friday against the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6:30 p.m.).

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