HAMILTON — Receivers Steven Dunbar Jr. and Tim White are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' dynamic duo.
Each made his way to Hamilton after spending time in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. This season, the CFL sophomores earned East Division all-star honours after registering 1,000-yard receiving campaigns.
And with 14 combined touchdown catches, Dunbar and White will be a big part of what Hamilton does offensively Sunday when it faces Montreal Alouettes in the East Division semifinal at Molson Stadium.
"They're almost so multiple that they're the same person but they're not," Ticats quarterback Dane Evans told reporters this week. "That makes no sense but it makes sense, you know?
"They both can do a lot of different things. The biggest thing is they're both extremely smart football players. They're receivers but they see the game as quarterbacks . . . . they're a great tandem to have together and I'm super lucky and thankful for them."
White, 28, was Hamilton's receiving leader this season with 94 catches for 1,265 yards, eight TDs with a CFL-best six 100-yard games. Dunbar, 26, was second with 72 receptions for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
The two stepped up admirably to fill the void created when all-star Bralon Addison (ruptured Achilles) required season-ending surgery. Addison started Hamilton's first eight regular-season games, registering 43 catches for 433 yards.
Addison had 95 receptions for 1,236 yards and seven TDs with Hamilton in 2019 before signing with the Minnesota Vikings. After being released by the NFL club in August 2020, Addison re-signed with the Ticats but was limited to three games during the 2021 season with a leg injury, recording 18 receptions for 231 yards.
White and Dunbar both followed similar paths to Hamilton. Each signed NFL contracts after college as undrafted free agents before coming to Canada.
After playing collegiately at Houston, the six-foot-three, 202-pound Dunbar spent time with San Francisco (2018) and Denver (2019) as well as the XFL's Dallas Renegades (2020) before joining the Ticats last season. Following his time at Arizona State, the five-foot-10, 185-pound White was with Baltimore (2018-19), the New York Jets (2019) and New Orleans (2019-20) before heading north.
The pair helped Hamilton reach the '21 Grey Cup final for a second straight season. White registered 56 catches for 774 yards and two TDs in 13 games while Dunbar had 44 receptions for 630 yards and four touchdowns in 12 regular-season contests.
Both translated increased workloads this season into East Division all-star nods.
"A lot of hard work, a lot of preparation went into it," Dunbar said. "As a receiver you want to be a receiver that gets 1,000 yards."
"It's super cool, it's an accomplishment," he said.
Evans said both players have put in the time and effort to become quality receivers. Evans added White has taken on added responsibility on the field without questioning the process.
"The dude just works super hard," Evans said. "I've asked him to do some different things this year, whether that's blocking, running a speed sweep to pull someone else open or make the play -- which he's done a lot this year -- and he's never once said anything but, 'Yes sir, let's get it done.'
"When you have a guy like that, especially a leader on this team, that helps everybody else just elevate their game."
Dunbar goes about doing his job without fanfare. He has emerged as a quiet leader on a receiving corps that also includes talented rookie Kiondre Smith, of Markham, Ont., sophomore Tyler Ternowski, a Hamilton native, and newcomer Lemar Durant, a veteran CFL player from Vancouver.
"Leadership comes in many different forms and many different sizes and Steve is the ultimate example of that," Evans said. " A quiet leader, a lead-by-example type of guy.
"You know when it comes to Steve, he's not cheating the game so the game is going to reward him huge."
White said every receiving corps needs a quiet leader like Dunbar.
"They (other receivers) see it every single day," White said. "Obviously they feel like, 'Dang, I have to challenge myself more. I see this guy coming in and challenging himself so I have to come out and challenge myself.'
"It's one of those things you need, someone who can set the example of how to approach the game every day like a pro. That's what he's been doing since Day 1. It's definitely influential."
So how does White describe himself and Dunbar as a tandem?
"I'd say dynamite," he said. "But Steve (adds) a different element to the game.
"He has a great catch range and obviously tracks the ball extremely well."
But when asked what Dunbar does better than him, White quickly quipped with a broad smile, "Nothing."
However, White said he's looking at the playoffs as an opportunity to achieve more.
"I still feel like I have a lot more way to go, a lot more respect to earn," he said. "I think these are some of the bigger events that you want to show that in . . . I'm just looking forward to the challenge."
Added Dunbar: "We're going to work hard, be consistent . . . we have to play clean and play our football. We've got to do what we've got to do."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2022.
The Canadian Press