Toronto Argonauts' linebacker Henoc Muamba Grey Cup MVP and top Canadian

REGINA — His hands full of hardware, Toronto Argonauts middle linebacker Henoc Muamba knelt on Mosaic Stadium's stage and cried after winning the first Grey Cup of his football career.

The 33-year-old doubled up on individual honours in the game.

Muamba was chosen as the most valuable player and outstanding Canadian in Toronto's 24-23 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina on Sunday night.

"Still trying to figure out if this is real life," Muamba said during a post-game press conference flanked by his four-year-old daughter Thea and both trophies.

With the Argonauts leading by just one point, Muamba intercepted Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros late in the fourth quarter to halt a potential game-winning touchdown drive by Winnipeg.

Muamba's crucial pick at 3:20 put the Argos at Winnipeg's 43-yard line.

Argos kicker Boris Bede's field-goal attempt was blocked, but Toronto's Robbie Smith then blocked a Bombers field-goal try with 43 seconds remaining to preserve the Argonauts' first Grey Cup win since 2017.

Muamba, a U Sports alum and the all-time leader in tackles at St. Francis Xavier, became the second CFL player to claim both awards following running back Andrew Harris in 2019.

Born in Kinshasa, Congo, Muamba drew up in Montreal and Mississauga, Ont. He attended Father Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga. His brothers Cauchy and Kelvin also played in the CFL with Montreal and Saskatchewan, respectively.

Muamba was a Blue Bombers' rookie in 2011 when Winnipeg lost to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup. He didn't appear in another Grey Cup until Sunday, when he also had three tackles and a pass knockdown.

"Eleven years of hard work. Eleven years been playing this game and all I ever wanted was to be great," Muamba said. "To reach the pinnacle, there's nothing like it."

The six-foot, 230-pound linebacker nearly had two picks Sunday, but dropped the football on his first chance.

"We don't get to the interception without that first drop I had," Muamba said. "I just lost it. I lost it in the air."

His teammates Chris Edwards and Shaq Richardson told him not to worry, and that he'd get another one.

"Who am I not to have a confidence in myself when I have people around me that believe in me so much, so deeply, so greatly?" Muamba said. "I felt like I was letting my teammates down after the first drop, but they had my back.

"When a second one came, there was no way I was letting that drop."

Muamba wears a bracelet that reads "measured by character" given to him by the Bombers team chaplain when he played there.

"That's the type of men we have in our locker room. Men of character. Guys that don't quit. Guys that don't give up," he said.

"When we step on that field, we get to write the story. It's not about the narrative that's said outside our locker room. We took the pen as soon as we stepped on the field and we started writing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press