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'Pinball Clemons 2.0' ... Redblacks returner DeVonte Dedmon shows he's special


Imagine DeVonte Dedmon having an even more incredible game than he did Friday night against the Montreal Alouettes.

Three days after a couple of electrifying touchdown plays — one that got plenty of attention on ESPN’s Sports Center — the Ottawa Redblacks punt/kickoff returner was asked Monday how they ranked among his top football moments.

He paused, then said: “It’s definitely Top 2. But I had a youth game I’ll never forget — I scored four touchdowns. I had a bet (with my dad), he (lost and) shaved his head. The following week, I got like three touchdowns and he got me NBA Live.”

During the game in Montreal — a 30-27 overtime win over the Alouettes — Dedmon scored touchdowns on an 111-yard kickoff return and a 95-yard highlight-reel punt return where he broke six or seven tackles. The kickoff return was an all-time record for an Ottawa CFL player, breaking the previous one of 107 yards by Vic Washington in 1969. And, yes, CFL records don’t count playoffs — Gene Gaines actually had a 128-yard kickoff return for the Rough Riders in 1964.

“Everyone kept sending (the highlight) to me, then when Sports Center put it out, it blew up even more,” said Dedmon. “My Instagram, I had more than 80 requests. I was thinking, ‘This is cool, I’ve never had anything like this.’ I have to move on to the next week and keep pushing. I’m just excited we won the game.”

One of Dedmon’s teammates who was helping set up the heroics was JP Bolduc, who correctly predicted before the game that the 23-year-old was going to do something special.

“I told him, ‘You have the ability to make a great play today.’ I told him, ‘I think I feel it, I’m in Montreal and I have a lot of friends and family, please make me look good.’ ”

Said Dedmon: “The guys told me all week long, ‘We’ll get you in the end zone — on a kick return or a punt return.’ Before we went out, JP came up to me and he was like, ‘I got you, I’m going to block for you.’ When I hear stuff like that, it makes me want to keep going. I was thinking, ‘I can’t go down for the team, I have to score.’ All that balance stuff I worked on in the off-season helped. You have to have the confidence going in. But the guys are boosting my confidence even more when they tell me, ‘I’ve got it man, I’m going to block for you.’ Hearing that, it motivates me even more.”

Dedmon was on track to be the team’s punt/kickoff returner during the pre-season. He had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Hamilton, but was injured (strained hamstring) against Montreal in the team’s final tuneup for the regular season. With doctors telling Dedmon he’d be out 4-6 weeks, the Redblacks “suspended” him. Dedmon went home to Williamsburg, Va., and worked hard, hoping he’d get another shot with Ottawa. Sure enough, the Redblacks came calling three weeks ago.

“He would have been our guy from Day 1, he just had a setback physically,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. “As soon as he was available again, we wanted to get him going. The thing I liked best on his punt return — obviously there’s talent involved in that — it was the sheer determination that he wasn’t going to go down. He was able to run through tackles, then outrun the last guy to score. Those definitely are inspiring plays, for sure.”

Redblacks special teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce got what he needed out of his special teams units — guys following through on their assignment responsibilities and giving Dedmon some room to roam.

“When you look at the kickoff return, it really was 12 of the guys out there working together,” said Dyce. “After the first kickoff, we made a couple of minor adjustments and it worked. If you notice (on the first touchdown), there wasn’t a whole lot he had to do — he ran his path, he did a great job and he finished. He has great top-end (speed). You look at his punt return, the guys did a good job getting him started and he finished it. I’ve been doing this a long time and I haven’t seen many like that. It was special.”

“The first one, I’ll say the special teams blockers did a really good job,” said Bolduc. “On the second one, it was Pinball Clemons 2.0. On the bus (ride home to Ottawa), I probably watched the play 25 times. It was so impressive for him to keep his balance. I don’t think the Montreal coach (special teams co-ordinator) Mickey Donovan was happy because they missed so many tackles — nobody wrapped. But it was an amazing play.”

Dyce said there’s plenty to like about what Dedmon brings to the football field.

“There are certain things we saw in him that we liked — one of those things was his balance, another was how fast he was to get north/south, make a decision and go from there,” said Dyce.

“DeVonte’s an explosive returner, he’s a really good football player and he’s such a great guy to be around,” said Bolduc. “He’s the kind of guy that’s fun to block for — it’s one move and up so you don’t have to hold your block forever.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Redblacks try to incorporate Dedmon more into their offence — he’s a playmaker who seems to be able to find open space. But, with the Eskimos up next — the Redblacks are in Edmonton for a Friday night game — Dedmon isn’t worried about where he lines up.

“I just do what I have to do to help the team win,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m just excited to be here.”

THE END AROUND: LB Jeff Knox Jr. has been released (he played one game with the Redblacks after being signed nearly a month ago). Asked why Knox is gone, Campbell said. “Numbers game, it’s just the way it goes.” Also gone is national LB Charles Brousseau. The team signed 23-year-old receiver Micah Wright out of Maine … The Eskimos have dealt WR Kenny Stafford (30 catches for 366 yards) to the Roughriders for returner Christion Jones, who is expected to help with his return ability (he has three punt-return touchdowns in three seasons).

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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