Keon Raymond scored the first touchdown of his life off an interception at the age of nine. That set the tone for his football career.
The Calgary linebacker is one away from becoming the franchise leader in defensive touchdowns as the Stampeders (4-1) face the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks (1-4) for the first time Saturday at McMahon Stadium.
Raymond tied Frank Andruski’s club record last weekend when he intercepted former teammate Kevin Glenn and went 63 yards for the TD in Calgary’s 25-24 loss to the B.C. Lions.
“It would be a blessing if I was able to get another one,” Raymond said Friday. “I don’t worry about it. If the opportunity presents itself, I want to take full advantage of it.”
The 31-year-old is in his seventh season wearing Calgary’s galloping horse logo. Raymond signed a contract extension with the club in January.
“It was one of the things I said when I signed back here … ‘I want to be able to have my name on the side of this stadium one day,’” Raymond said. “That’s one of the things that continues to fuel me.”
Raymond’s pick-six against B.C. was his fourth. The other two TDs have come on fumble recoveries.
He dabbled on offence as a receiver and running back in high school, but said nothing beats the feeling of scoring off the opposing offence’s mistakes.
“It sucks the life out of them, and I don’t mind being a vampire,” he said.
A staunch Calgary defence allowing a league-low 15.1 points per game has been a huge difference for Calgary this season. The club’s offence is the least productive in the West Division, averaging 24.6 points per game.
However, B.C. became the first CFL team this season to surpass the 100-yard rushing plateau against Calgary.
“Our biggest thing is to make sure we’re in position to win the game at all times,” Raymond said. “We did that. We just didn’t close out defensively, so we want to make sure we’re able to bounce back and continue to play defence the way we’ve been playing.”
A former Stampeder quarterback returns to McMahon a second consecutive week, although Ottawa’s Henry Burris spent two seasons as Hamilton’s starter following his seven-year stint in Calgary. However, Raymond’s familiarity with Burris will certainly help him anticipate his one-time teammate’s moves.
And in 2012, Raymond returned a Burris interception 100 yards for a touchdown, but he says he won’t shirk his defensive responsibilities for a shot returning a second Burris pick for the team record.
“I played with Hank for about five years and understand how he throws, what his looks are and what his main targets are,” Raymond said. “It gives me a little bit of a bead on him, but I still have to make sure I’m doing my part, covering guys and [being] in the right position.”
Ottawa is coming off a 38-14 home loss to Saskatchewan and is averaging just 18.8 points a game, ahead of only the Montreal Alouettes (15 points per game).
However, Ottawa remains in contention in the East Division. The Toronto Argonauts are the only Eastern club with more than one win and are on their bye week.
“That’s the silver lining behind all this,” Burris said. “You never expected the East would get off to this slow of a start. We need to take full advantage of it. That’s what we’ve been preparing ourselves for all week.”
“Toronto has the bye this week, so we have the chance to tie them up. Hamilton is thinking the same thing as well as Montreal, so who is going to take that next step? It’s sitting right there for us. We need to make that step happen and it’s going to start with our offence.”
The Stampeders supplied the RedBlacks with significant manpower, both on their roster and coaching ranks.
Ottawa selected Glenn, offensive lineman J’Michael Deane and safety Eric Fraser in the expansion draft. But Glenn asked for and was granted a trade to the Lions after the RedBlacks signed Burris as a free agent.
The Stampeders also sent veteran offensive lineman Jon Gott to Ottawa for the first overall pick in the CFL draft in May, using it to take Laval offensive lineman Pierre Lavertu.
RedBlacks head coach Rick Campbell spent the past two seasons as Calgary’s defensive co-ordinator, while offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson is a former Stampeders offensive line coach.
Ottawa’s first trade in February was acquiring defensive lineman Justin Phillips from Calgary, but Phillips is currently on the six-game injured list with a broken leg.
There wasn’t much for Ottawa to celebrate against Saskatchewan but the club’s first TD at home was certainly memorable.
When backup quarterback Thomas Demarco punted the ball into the end zone, an on-side Dobson Collins raced downfield and jumped on it for the score.
John Hufnagel, Calgary’s head coach and GM, pointed out Campbell’s coaching roots are on special teams.
“He’s always been known to have some tricks up his sleeve,” Hufnagel said.
With Canadian running backs Jon Cornish and Matt Walter still out with concussion symptoms, ratio issues will keep veteran slotback Nik Lewis a healthy scratch for a second week.
Cornish, the CFL’s most valuable player and leading rusher last season, hasn’t played since the season opener.
Cornish and Walter were both able to get into the weight room this week. Cornish also attended team meetings “so they’re both going in the right direction,” Hufnagel said.