Individual accolades are nice, but achieving Grey Cup win remains Menard's main focus

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Another day, another individual honour for David Menard.

The Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman was named the East Division's top Canadian on Thursday after registering a conference-high eight sacks. On Wednesday, the 31-year-old Chicoutimi, Que., native was voted a division all-star.

But Menard's measure for a successful season goes well beyond individual accolades.

"I feel like if we don't end up with the Grey Cup it won't mean anything," Menard told reporters during a videoconference. "Of course, I'm going to bring it up when I negotiate my next contract . . . but the whole season, all the awards and nominations and recognition don't mean a lot if you don't end up winning the Cup.

"That's the only goal right now, the only thing that really matters to me at this point."

The Alouettes will have to become road warriors to capture their first Grey Cup since 2010. Montreal visits the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division semifinal Sunday, with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the winner in the conference final Dec. 5.

The '21 Grey Cup game will be played Dec. 12 at Tim Hortons Field.

The six-foot-one, 259-pound Menard registered career highs in sacks and tackles (18) this year, his first with Montreal. Menard spent his first six CFL seasons with the B.C. Lions before signing as a free agent with the Alouettes following the '19 campaign.

The CFL didn't play football in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Menard re-signed with Montreal on Dec. 15, 2020.

Menard appeared in Montreal's 14 regular-season games and even saw spot duty on the offensive line due to injuries there. Now, following his most productive CFL season Menard is preparing for his first CFL playoff game since 2016 with one goal in mind.

"The entire process is going to mean something (if) we end up winning the Grey Cup," he said. "If we go to the Grey Cup and lose, at the end of the day all we did really didn't matter.

"That's how I see it."

Montreal and Hamilton split their season series 1-1. The Ticats earned a 27-10 road win Aug. 27 before the Alouettes rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 23-20 overtime victory Oct. 2 at Tim Hortons Field.

Montreal's defence faced both of Hamilton's top two quarterbacks this season. Dane Evans was the starter in the first meeting while veteran Jeremiah Masoli took snaps in the second.

Masoli is expected to start Sunday but Menard said regardless of who's at quarterback for Hamilton, Montreal's defence must play its best game of the season.

"They have a good offensive line, I feel like we have a good defensive line as well so it's going to be a good matchup," he said. "Masoli is a great quarterback so we're going to have to bring him to the ground and make sure he throws interceptions.

"If he (Evans) comes in, we'll have to take him seriously and keep playing our best football."

The Ticats were 5-2 at Tim Hortons Field this year and traditionally have been very strong there playing before their rabid supporters. But last month, Montreal did snap Hamilton's 11-game home win streak.

Then again, Menard said Montreal would still be feeling good about its chances even had it lost at Tim Hortons Field. But linebacker Patrick Levels underscored the Alouettes' confidence this week as he guaranteed the visitors will win Sunday.

"We have a great lockerroom, we just believe in ourselves right now," Menard said. "They're a great team at home, they have that vibe and aura around them when they're home but we beat them before, we know it can be done.

"But right now every team is 0-0. What we did in the past, it doesn't matter at this point. If you win you keep going, if you lose you're out."

If his teams don't make the CFL playoffs, Menard doesn't stick around to see which club finishes on top.

He visited Vietnam following the '19 season after travelling to Thailand the year before. And in 2017, he was in Europe during the CFL playoffs.

"I was in Thailand and met a lot of travellers who were going to Vietnam or had come back from there and they had great words about it,' Menard said. "I love Asia.

"It's such a different country, such a different culture. I just loved everything about it."

Menard has found travelling to be a great way to deal with the disappointment of not winning a Grey Cup. He's hopeful that he's still in Canada in late November this year for a reason.

"Actually, I did those trips to put closure on the season," Menard said. "I haven't watched the Grey Cup in so many years.

"It was like, I was out of the playoffs so . . . I feel like this year is going to be different. Honestly, that's all that matters. I just want to lift that Grey Cup and finish with a win."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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