TORONTO — Moments before walking back into the locker room, Andre Durie stopped on a piece of green turf to the left of the Argos endzone. Some of his teammates were still in the middle of the field celebrating with the Grey Cup alongside family and friends, but Durie stepped away from the chaos for a moment to show his appreciation for Toronto fans. Smiling, he threw his arms into the air, high fiving and shaking hands with as many people as he could reach over the sideline railing.
It was a simple showing of gratitude, something that other players likely did as well as they walked towards the locker room, but not every Argos player has the same connection to Toronto fans that Durie has. He grew up in this city, played high school football in Mississauga and spent his CIS career at York University, making winning the 100th Grey Cup in front of a crowd of more than 53,000 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto Sunday night particularly special.
"I'm speechless," he said in an interview after the game. "Just having my friends, the community, all of the Toronto fans come out and embrace the CFL again and make the Toronto Argonauts a little bit more relevant [means a lot.] I want to thank each and every one of them who bought a ticket and came out and supported us."
[Slideshow: 100th Grey Cup action]
Durie joined the Argos in 2007 and they are the only CFL organization he's ever known. After suffering a knee injury in 2005 that kept him out for the majority of his junior and senior CIS seasons it was the Argos who gave him a second chance at a football career.
At the time of his injury Durie says doctors told him he may never walk properly again, so to be able to now call himself a Grey Cup champion is in many ways a symbol of his perseverance, and proof that his career has come full circle.
"It was one of my goals to try and overcome the injury," Durie said. "Coming here we had a lot of rough seasons, people limited us, told us we weren't going to be Grey Cup champions [that] we couldn't do it. So for me and my brothers to go out and have a victory like this, there are no words to explain [how it feels.]
[Slideshow: Argos celebrate victory at the Grey Cup]
"It's pretty surreal. To win the 100th Grey Cup and give the community back something is just what we've wanted for so long."
Durie was a big piece of the Argos receiving core this season. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (842), second in receptions (70) and tied for second in touchdowns (5). Though he was quiet for the majority of the game Sunday — he had just two receptions for 27 yards in the first three quarters — his seven-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass from Ricky Ray with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter put the Argos up 34-14 and took any remaining hope away from the Calgary Stampeders. He felt scoring the touchdown allowed him to redeem himself for his play earlier in the game.
"It was the moment that sealed the deal," Durie said, explaining why his emotions got the best of him after scoring the touchdown. "Just seeing all the guys who've put the blood, sweat and tears and all the hard work [into this] it's been amazing.