It has been 60 days since the B.C. Lions last won a CFL game, but for the first time in two months, they had something to celebrate Wednesday.
Yonus Davis was acknowledged by the league as its special teams player of the month - B.C.'s first honoree this season - while cornerback Davis Sanchez plans to acknowledge his mentor Friday against the Montreal Alouettes.
The former Alouettes player is returning to Montreal for the first time since joining the Lions last winter, and will donate his game cheque to the Tony Proudfoot Fund, which supports people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Proudfoot, a former Als defensive back and broadcaster, tutored Sanchez during his seven years in Montreal, and revealed last weekend that he doesn't have long to live because the disease has spread to his lungs.
"He took an interest in me at a young age, was an influence on my career, and has been a friend throughout," Sanchez said. "Donating a few thousand dollars is not a big deal, and is not going to change the world. Hopefully, it helps what Tony is already doing, which is to bring awareness to the disease."
The 36-year-old Sanchez signed with B.C. as a free agent, wanting to end his career in his hometown while joining a stable organization that perennially competed for the Grey Cup. But after seven consecutive defeats, and a CFL-worst 1-7 record, the Lions are hardly contenders, and their weekly roster has been anything but stable.
The Lions used to dominate the weekly, monthly, and yearly CFL player awards, but not one player had garnered such accolades until Davis became a surprise winner. Despite not securing any performer of the week honours, the 5-foot-7 rookie spitfire earned the nod for his body of work in August.
"I'm happy for him, it's good news for the club, and, obviously, it's a bit of a lift," general manager and head coach Wally Buono said. "He's given us a spark in a lot of ways, and I feel the best is yet to come with him."
Buono admitted he took too long recognizing that Davis should be returning kicks. He said he was too married to the idea that his primary return specialist should be a receiver, not a running back.
Inserted into the lineup on July 30, after receiver Robert Jordan was cut, Davis has become B.C.'s best offensive weapon, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise desultory season.
"There was a point in time in training camp when the light went on for all of us," Buono said. "After the first preseason game, you could see he had to be part of your team. If I had been smarter, maybe if we weren't set with getting a receiver-returner, he probably would've been in the lineup sooner."
The 26-year-old is averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff return, which includes an 88-yard touchdown. He is also earning more time in the backfield, with nine carries over the last two weeks in relief of Jamal Robertson - though Buono noted the coaches want to limit Davis's workload so he stays fresh.
In a loss to Calgary last week, the San Jose State University product fumbled a missed field-goal attempt on the game's first possession, saying he got too excited because those are the best opportunities for kick-return touchdowns. He responded with some long gains on punts and kickoffs, and 216 return yards.