REGINA — Ja’Gared Davis is heading to his sixth consecutive Grey Cup game, an unlikely streak he calls "absurd."
Davis and his Toronto Argonauts teammates will take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the two-time defending Grey Cup champions, on Sunday in the CFL championship game at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.
Davis has played six CFL seasons and has reached the Grey Cup game every year.
Does the six-foot-one, 238-pound defensive lineman have a unique ability to pick championship calibre teams, or is good luck responsible for his series of success?
"Honestly for me, I’ve been blessed," Davis said. "I've been truly blessed to make it to six but I've also been part of some great organizations, great teams, great teammates and great friends.
"Just being able to accomplish such a feat is absurd. It just happened. I know a lot of guys who maybe played in two or three Grey Cups over a 15-year career so for me to do it six years in a row, back-to-back-to-back, is a feat in itself that I will definitely cherish."
The last CFL appear to play in six or more consecutive Grey Cup games was punter Hank Ilesic who played in seven straight from 1977 to 1983. Ilesic’s first six appearances were with Edmonton, with the seventh coming as a member of the Argos.
The 32-year-old Davis had brief stints in the NFL with Houston, New England, Kansas City and Washington before signing with the Calgary Stampeders in 2016.
He went on to play in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Grey Cup games with the Stampeders, winning his lone Grey Cup ring in his final season in Calgary, before signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2019.
After appearances in the 2019 and 2021 Grey Cup games with Hamilton, Davis joined the Argos for the 2022 season and will be able to extend his streak by playing in Sunday’s game against Winnipeg.
While Davis downplays the streak at times, his teammates are proud of his achievement and understand how he got to this point.
"Unbelievable, right? Unbelievable," said Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. "And he's so cool about it, too. And he's so cool about the way he plays. And he's so cool about the way he practises and he's so cool about the way he gets to the quarterback. He's just a natural athlete with natural swagger and below that is a really strong drive.
“You can see why he's made it this many years. He's a car with a lot of gas in it. I'm saying he's a champion in his blood and it's a testament to how good of a football player and how good of a man he is."
That appreciation from his teammates is a two-way street for Davis, as he is motivated to help them earn a championship ring on Sunday.
“There's so many guys I can name, an endless list of people who I'm putting it all out for because they deserve this opportunity," he said. "Sure, I've been here six times in a row but this one means just as much to me as the first one because I know who I’m doing it for."
Sunday’s game features the two division champions — Winnipeg topped the West Division with a 15-3 record while the Argos won the East Division with an 11-7 record.
The Bombers are focused on winning their third straight Grey Cup and have a roster loaded with players who have championship experience.
The Argos, on the other hand, have fewer players with Grey Cup experience, and Davis understands those players that will be called upon to help out their teammates adapt and prepare for the big stage so they won’t be overwhelmed on game day.
“The message to them is stick with what got you here, not 'I've got to make this type of play this week,' or 'I've got to go above and beyond my normal means to become a champion,' because that’s not true. You really have to stick with what got you’re here,” said Davis.
“It’s the small things that make the biggest difference in these types of games. It's not the big things so pay attention to the minute details that get overlooked a lot of times. It’s about being able to trust the guy beside you, knowing that he's going to continue to do his job.
"Whether it’s on the first play or in overtime, you need to know that they’re going to get the job done. That’s what really separates winners from losers, being able to be you when everything's on the line. When the moment gets big for you, you’re bigger than the moment and you treat it as such."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press