Friday, July 19, 2024

Redblacks rookie Rock Armstead cooking

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Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back has come up big

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One reason the Ottawa Redblacks were able to defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the first time in 11 tries Sunday night was a mistake made by the visitors that isn’t evident on the game film.

“They woke up the beast,” said Redblacks running back Ryquell Armstead. “Man, they were talking all game. I was just waiting for my opportunity.”

The chirps clearly provided added motivation for the 27-year old CFL rookie in both of Ottawa’s touchdown drives.

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He had a seven-yard gain and a 25-yard reception down to the Hamilton one leading to Dustin Crum’s first-quarter plunge into the end zone, but his work in the last three minutes of the game was key to the victory.

With Ottawa trailing by a point, Armstead’s number was called three times in row.

He replied with a eight-yard catch that was followed by hard runs of 14 and 17 yards.

On the second play after the latter, Dru Brown found Justin Hardy with a 15-yard TD throw.

‘I’m sitting there smiling, just taking their licks, letting them enjoy it,” he said of the Ticats’ yapping. “But you know, it ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun. When it was our turn to laugh and giggle and joke, it wasn’t funny (to them).”

Armstead was recognized as the CFL’s top running back of the week for his performance, which consisted of 104 yards from scrimmage on 53 off six catches and 51 from 10 rushes.

If Kyle Brandt from the the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football wanted to look north of the border for his Tuesday “Angry Runs” segment, Armstead would be worthy of the scepter.

For the last two bursts, he was determined to move the chains.

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“My team needed me and I was able to just go do my job of seeing the holes, hitting the holes,” said Armstead. “And yeah, I had a little more passion, more anger. It showed.”

It also showed on the sidelines when he was frustrated after falling short of the marker the series before.

“Nothing sits with me, it’s all about the next play,” said Armstead. “But for me, emotions, anger, pain, happiness, it’s all a part of it. So going off on the sideline and being able to get a little bit of anger out that way and reset, it’s perfect. Coaches understand I’m not being a cancer, I’m not causing any drama. I’m just getting a little anger out and I’m grateful my coaches allow me to do that. I was able to reset.”

Armstead was also a big reason why the Redblacks won their season opener against Winnipeg, carrying the ball 16 times for 95 yards.

While he is fifth among league rushers with 172 yards on 32 attempts, he leads the CFL with a 5.4 yards per carry average.

Getting the ball in his hands more often is a priority for the Redblacks.

“Going back and watching the film, I liked what the offensive line did, but we do have to be able to run the ball a little bit better than what we do, we have to also give him a few more opportunities,” said head coach Bob Dyce. “Rock didn’t have as many carries as maybe we would liked from handoffs, but we still got the ball in his hands, and he was physical when he got it as a receiver and as a running back.

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“We have to be able to run the ball when we need to run the ball, and I was very excited to see the (second TD drive) two bigger runs that we did was was great to see the combination of the line, the calls (by offensive coordinator Tommy Condell) and obviously the Rock.

“He’s going to be Rock all the time. He loves the contact, he wants his opportunities, and you know, it’s our job to make sure he gets it.”

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Armstead has been known as The Rock since the nickname was given to him by Geoff Collins, his coach at Temple – despite his efforts to be called something else.

“It’s just stuck with me,” he said. “I don’t even tell guys. I say: ‘Hey I’m Q’. Eventually it becomes Rock. Hey, I’m solid. Let’s keep it going.”

Armstead grew up in Millville, N.J. and after his days at Temple was a fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.

He played in 18 games for the Jags over three years before winding up with the XFL’s DC Defenders last season, which he ended on the Redblacks practice roster.

When Ottawa lost Devonte Williams to an off-season Achilles injury, the opening was there for Armstead to burst through.

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He hit the hole like it was his last chance to play pro football.

“Football was always easy to me,” said Armstead, who went to high school with Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout. “I graduated high school early, graduated college early … football has just been my second nature.

“The work I put in during the offseason, behind cameras and behind rooms, that’s where the real work comes in. I quit my job back home as a therapist in January and focus on this. I literally trained Monday through Saturday, 8-10 a.m then 8-10 p.m. or 11 p.m., real lifting, running everything. I’m just grateful that’s finally being shown. Six months strong, by myself, in the darkness just working working for this opportunity. So I’m just glad I’m able to showcase.

“I have no second chances. I have no other opportunities. I have no other plans. I went all into my Plan A which was this, and I’m glad it’s happening.”


The Redblacks expect to see the best of the Blue Bombers when they head to Winnipeg for Friday’s game, whether injured QB Zach Collaros (who didn’t practice on Tuesday) plays or not. “They’re 0-4, but that’s not who they are,” said Dyce. “I know Mike (O’Shea) and he’s a great coach. It’s funny people want to say they’re desperate, but that’s that’s not Mike’s coaching style. He believes in the process and that’s what he’s preaching over there. They’re going to continue to play a Winnipeg brand of football and we have to be prepared to go into Winnipeg and be our best” … The Redblacks lost their practice roster safety net for Armstead when Kylin Hill was released from the practice roster on Tuesday. Armstead’s backups on the active roster are returner extraordinaire DeVonte Dedmon and former Ottawa Gee-Gee Amlicar Polk, whose been used strictly on special teams. The team is expected to add another running back to the practice roster at some point soon … While releasing Hill, the Redblacks have added to the PR American defensive back Elijah Blades, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder who was a training-camp cut … Also acknowledged on the CFL honour roll last week for their special teams efforts were Adarius Pickett, who had three coverage tackles along with his six on defence, and Tobias Harris, who had one special teams tackle and a gritty 27-yard return to set up the game winning drive. Dedmon had a great night against the Ticats with 162 return yards, but the opening kickoff fumble likely cost him a honour roll mention.

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