Former REDBLACKS Receiver and Returner “Staying ahead of the curb” with Steelers

Diontae Spencer’s legacy begins at McNeese

Diontae Spencer, the fastest man on the planet grew up in the small town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Growing up in a small town, he wasn’t given a lot of attention coming out of high school.

Without much attention in high school, Spencer wasn’t given a lot of University/College offers. Spencer committed to the University of McNeese State. With the Cowboys, Diontae put up incredible numbers everywhere on the stat sheet. He produced 1,248 yards and 12 touchdowns in receiving, while he also helped the passing game with a 46 yard touchdown pass in the 2013-14 season against Central Arkansas. Along with the air game, he also rushed for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns. To cap it all off, he also returned kicks and punts for over 1,200 yards and 3 touchdowns.

One more super natural stat for you guys would be his 365 all-purpose yard, 5 touchdown game against Stephen F. Austin. Where he caught 2 touchdowns and returned for 3, yep that’s right, the really hard touchdowns, like the really rare ones, he got 3 in one game!

Coming out of University, the sky was the limit for Spencer. He was being looked at by both the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. After going through workouts after the draft, Spencer signed with the Rams. Even though Diontae was a favorite player for McNeese fans, the Rams went on without him.

Diontae Spencer visits Canada

After going through all of 2014 as a free agent, the Toronto Argonauts signed the speedy receiver/returner. Spencer spent both 2015 and 2016 with Toronto, where he’d play receiver with veteran Chad Owens, while taking return duties as a side job.

Spencer showed off his 4.3 speed catching over 100 passes from Trevor Harris and Ricky Ray for over 1,200 yards. While receiving for 6 touchdowns, Spencer used his supernatural speed to return over 65 kicks.

After spending 2 productive seasons in Toronto, Diontae became a free agent once again.

Spencer breaks records in the nation’s capital

On February 15th, 2017, Spencer’s life changed. He was signed by the reigning Grey Cup champions Ottawa Redblacks. Without knowing what was next, Spencer would replace both receivers Ernest Jackson and Chris Williams who both provided the Redblacks with constitutive 1,000 yard seasons.

In training camp, Spencer was given all return duties along with a starting job on the offense.

The speedy receiver showed the Redblacks just how big the pickup was early in the season. In just week two of the CFL season, the REDBLACKS traveled to Calgary, where Diontae would show off his 4.3 speed. In just his second game in plaid, Diontae caught just 3 catches for 107 yards, returned 10 kicks for 254 yards and had 2 total touchdowns. He provided the Redblacks with 361 all-purpose yards in the second game for them.

After showing the team what he can do early on, he continued to impress.

On October 27th, the Redblacks faced the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at TD Place. Against the Eastern rival, Spencer set a record. A record which was set for all leagues, the NFL, NCAA, and CFL. He had the most all-purpose yards gained in one game by a individual.

Spencer gained 496 all purpose yards against the Tiger-Cats.

After a 1,000 yard season in 2017, Spencer would do it again in 2018 being named a CFL All-Star in both seasons, the Ottawa Redblacks were provided with 5,458 total yards to go with the 16 touchdowns he scored with the Ottawa Redblacks.

Spence show comes to Pittsburgh

The 2 year career in Ottawa was cut short due to an offer of a lifetime. On January 4th, 2019 he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL.

Interview Timeout!

This afternoon, I was granted the opportunity to interview Sencer about his time in Ottawa and what he has coming up in Pittsburgh.

Lil’ Z: You spent two incredible seasons here in Ottawa, where you built relationships on and off the field, what is it like for you to leave Ottawa?

Spencer: “I think me leaving lost a lot of friendships. I wouldnt say I left, I’m just not going to be around for a while. I created some great bonds with people back there, and I’m (going) to miss it. When you could actually play football with friends, its something else, it was much easier and very exciting to go out there and know that you’re playing with your friends, teammates and friends are two very different relationships, and thats what made my experience in Ottawa great. We weren’t just teammates, we were al friends, so that is something I will be missing out on in Ottawa. I feel like that, and the relationships around the city will be missed also, I met so many great people in Ottawa, and I hope that Pittsburgh gives me a similar impact.

Lil’ Z: What do you have to say about the coaches and players you played with in Ottawa?

Spencer: “It was a great coaching staff! I feel like the coaches made it a lot easier to go out there and play football. When you have coaches that work as hard as they do, they’re in their offices working every single day. If we have a day off (Campbell) is still working. They’re all committed to what they do, and that is the best part about it, they’re committed and dedicated to win.”

Lil’ Z: After spending two seasons in Ottawa, you built great relationships here, have you kept in touch with any players or coaches in Ottawa?

Spencer: “Yeah, I talk to pretty much everybody I played with there, I even talk to a few coaches and managers here and there. My roommate was Greg (Ellingson), so even though we all are on different teams, the bond doesn’t break. I talk to Willy P (Powell), Sir V (Vincent Rogers) all of them on a daily.”

Lil’ Z: After Ottawa lost you and Ellingson in Free Agency, RJ Harris was given the starting role, what do you have to say about RJ’s transition to starting receiver?

Spencer: “I feel like he could have done this all last year. He could have played a bigger role in the offense. The team had too much talent last year that guys started to forget about him, with Brad, Greg and Willy P (Powell) teams left him (Harris) as a wide open target a lot of the time. Last year, even though he could have done more, he learnt a lot. He was behind Sinopoli and Ellingson who experienced a lot in their careers, and I think that helped him out for what he’s done this season. I’m not surprised of what he’s doing, he is an athlete.”

Lil’ Z: In January you were signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, what was going through your head when you got the call to play for the Steelers?

Spencer: “I honestly didn’t think much of it. Going into the off-season, in the last weeks of he CFL season I was getting messages and invites for workouts. A few days after the Grey Cup, I actually had a workout. After all, I already knew that I was going to take this path when my contact expired, so it when I got the call, the news that I got was more which team I’d be going to.”

Lil’ Z: After spending 4 seasons in the CFL, you’re a rookie once again in the NFL, what has the transition to the NFL been like so far?

Spencer: “Its been a smooth transition. I get the “Rookie” label, but the guys around me see me as a mature and experienced player. I’ve gone through 4 more seasons than many of the guys around me, and the coaches and players know that. I’m looked at more as a mentor than I am as a rookie. No matter what level of professional sports, the coaches say that I have experience to be a great role model for the guys younger than me and I try to carry that with me everyday I step onto the field.”

Lil’ Z: You are new to the NFL, but you spent 4 seasons in the CFL where you ad a few great seasons. Has the success that you had in Canada translated to the NFL?

Spencer: “It is. I can be very productive in this league. I just need the reps to show it. In Toronto I was given the same situation, I was new to the league but wasnt given enough reps, so I was placed on the practice squad, I hope I can get the reps I’ve been getting so far, and I’ll prove what I can do. The 4 seasons in the CFL helped the coaches realize who and what they’re dealing with, but now I have to prove it to them in person.”

Former Redblacks receiver, Tyrone Pierre features in “Ball Up”

Lil’ Z: With the coaches aware of what you’ve done in your career and to know what you’re capable of, has that helped you get more reps, or more looks at camp so far?

Spencer: “I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten more reps because of that, but its definitely helped me get where I am today. Without the time in the CFL, almost nobody would know what I can do, and now I’m in the NFL because of those 4 seasons. With my experience in the CFL, I know that I showed consistency, and in football that is a huge aspect to the game. At this level, everyone is a good athlete, but what makes and breaks a career is if you can be a good athlete every single tie you step foot on the field. The fact that I’ve shown consistency on film and now at camp, I believe that is going to help get more reps, but the other stats and experience shouldn’t help get the ball more.”

Lil’ Z: You are now in week two of Steelers training camp, what kind of reps have you gotten? Are you working with specials along with offense?

Spencer: “Oh yeah, without offense you have to learn the whole playbook. Whether its jumping in with the 2s the 3s or even the 1s, you’ve got to always know what is happening. Even on special teams, I get back there and I’ve been returning a little bit. Everyone is getting a chance at everything, and I’m just showing what I’m made of.”

Former Redblacks receiver, Tyrone Pierre features in “808 Drop”

Lil’ Z: Now with the Steelers, you’ve been getting the chance to play with some of the all time great athletes such as Big Ben and Juju Smith Schuster. What has it been like being in the same lockeroom as these guys?

Spencer: “Its cool, these guys are all very dominant on the field and throughout the NFL they are household names. Just the way they approach the game and the whole aspect of it, you want to make sure that when you’re out there you’re on the top of their game so you don’t let all those guys down. They’re all great players and I’m just extremely happy to be a part of it!”

Lil’ Z: As a kid, you dream of playing in the NFL, what is it like living a childhood dream?

Spencer: “I mean its cool. I wake up everyday and say how blessed I am and how I’m able to play this game. Looking back at it now, all the hard work I’ve put in and still putting in its finally paying off. I’m excited!”

As Diontae continues to strive his goals with the Pittsburgh Steelers, us at Rnation wish him the best of luck going forward with his career.

Redblacks fall short in 17-16 loss to Calgary

The Redblacks fall short to the Calgary Stampeders, 17-16. The hard fought battle went in favour of the Redblacks all through the game up until the last minute. 

After starting the game with a big 58 yard return by DeVonte Dedmon, Lewis Ward led the team with 3 field goals an one extra point which led to 10 points. Along with  Ward’s 3 field goals, running back John Crockett rushed for 84 yards, while catching one ball for 9 yards. With tonight’s 84 yards, Crockett now leads the Redblacks and is 6th in the league with 234 rush yards. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Brad Sinopoli has had his struggles throughout the season, but there were no signs of struggle tonight. Sinopoli caught 7 passes for 76 along with a 23 yard touchdown.

With the offence and Lewis putting up 16 points, the defence also played fantastic all game. Without giving up a touchdown, the defence had 4 turnovers along with a turnover on downs. 3 of the 5 turnovers came in the first half. 

The Redblacks now extend their lose streak to 4 losses as the team will travel to Montreal next week.

Gameday in the capital, Arndt ready for anything, Crockett stays at running-back, Fernandez “Isn’t the time to show love for former team”, best fans in the league

This week, the Redblacks are at home facing off against the 2018 Grey Cup champions, Calgary Stampeders. The game is tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern time at TD Place in Ottawa.

The Redblacks hope to end a 3 game losing streak, while the Stampeders fight to go 4-2.

Injury update

Last week, the Redblacks faced a big change on both sides of the ball, after losing multiple starters due to injuries. Those starters include Dominique Davis, Mossis Madu, Jonathan Rose, Antoine Pruneau, RJ Harris, Seth Coate, Kevin Brown and Chris Randle.

After a 31-1 loss in Winnipeg, the team stays nearly the same. Both Jennings and Crockett stay in the backfield, while Coate and Harris remain out for another week or two.

On the defensive side of the ball, Pruneau and Rose stay on the 6 game injured list, but the club does get Kevin Brown, and Chris Randle back this week.

New guys performing well

With all the injuries the team has faced within the first five games, the team has seen a lot of change. Guys who we’ve signed recently are starting, and making impact while we also use the “next man up” system for the players coming off the practice roster.

With change happening at 12 different positions since we first faced Calgary in week one, the team hasn’t done too bad with all of the new talent coming in.

After losing key pieces to the defense and offense, the fans may have been worried about the next few performances. Even though there were changes on paper, it didn’t show on the field. Linebacker Jerod Fernandez started his first ever CFL game last week, and rallied up 7 tackles.

I was able to speak to Fernandez regarding this experience for him.

Q: Last week you started your first game professionally, despite the loss, what was this experience like for you?

A: “I thought it was good, I missed some plays here and there, but I’m still new to it. After making mistakes, all I’m going to do is learn from them and make sure I don’t make them again. Other than that, I thought I had a pretty solid game as a core we had some great communication, and other than the final score, it was fun to be out there.”

Q: In the first few weeks the Redblacks have struggled to win the turnover battle. In 2017, you led the ACC with 6 forced fumbles, what kind of impact will you give the Redblacks defense this week against your former Calgary Stampeders?

A: “I’m just going to come out here and play hard, get to the ball, make plays. Obviously I’ve got a lot of love for the guys in Calgary for giving me the opportunity, but now isn’t the time to show love, its the time to work and make the defense better and put everything on them.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the injuries have been just as bad. Losing quarterback, Dominique Davis from a leg injury led to Jonathon Jennings getting the job in Winnipeg.

After a tough first half and 3rd quarter in last week’s game, the coaching staff wanted change, and they got it.

Going into his second season in Ottawa, Quarterback William Arndt is showing what he’s made of.

This Tuesday at Redblacks practice, Arndt shared some time to talk about what he can do for the offense if this opportunity ever comes around again.

Q: With Dominique Davis out for this week’s matchup, its just you and Jennings at QB, if anything happens, and you get in, what kind of impact will you make on this offense?

A: “I’m just going to come in and operate, be another piece to the next man up. I have a lot of confidence, I’ll execute every big play I can give.”

Q: What can the fans expect from you if we see number 8 on the field again?

A: “Someone that will play hard, give it my all, play to the whistle and I play for my teammates. I’ve had struggles in the past so I know that if I help out the guys around me, we will get it done. I’ll leave it all on the field.”

Q: Last week, Jennings was pulled in the 4th quarter and you were given the opportunity to throw your first passes as a professional athlete, what was this like for you?

A: “It wasn’t the circumstances I’d like it to be in. As a kid growing up you never dream of it to play out like it did. But we were in a tough environment, and I was hoping to just put the ball in the endzone. I hope I showed enough of what I can do, and I hope for more opportunities.”

Brad Sinopoli, “we have a young group of guys”

Brad Sinopoli, the long time Redblack is now in year 5 in plaid. In the years he’s spent in Ottawa, he has had 4 straight seasons where he’s gained 1000+ receiving yards.

Before getting the chance to play in Ottawa, he was a backup QB for Calgary coming from Ottawa University, and later made the switch to play Slot-back. In his first seasons at the new position, he racked up over 500 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.

Once he had been signed by Ottawa, he was given instant success, being brought in with Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams and Ernest Jackson, and the quarterback being Henry Burris, it was screaming success on paper.

Not only on paper, the 4 receivers were breaking records for being the first 4 receivers on the same team to have 1000+ yards back to back seasons. Both 2015 and 2016 ended in the Grey Cup for Sinopoli and the Redblacks. After winning the Grey Cup with Ottawa in 2016, the team lost both Chris Williams and Ernest Jackson, and the team was in for a roller coaster.

After losing a few big targets, in 2017, the Redblacks went 8-9-1 which would math the team’s record from the Grey Cup season in 2016. The team went on the lose the East Semi-Final against the Saskatchewan Rough Riders.

After a rough 2017 season, the team pretty well stayed the same, other than gaining more experience from the guys from the past season. 2018 was a terrific season for the Redblacks and Sinopoli. Brad had the best season of his career, rallying for 1376 yards on a CFL record 116 catches.

The 2018 Redblacks went on to win the 2018 East Final against the Hamilton Tiger Cats, where QB Trevor Harris had thrown for 6 touchdown passes.

Although the team had a great outing the week before, the Grey Cup was a different story, Ottawa was defeated by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2018 Grey Cup.

Now, the 2018-19 off-season. It all changed for Ottawa. The Ottawa Redblacks lost their whole offensive identity, including fellow bud, Greg Ellingson.

With a tough off-season, the team overcame the losses and went on to go 2-0, one win coming against their Grey Cup opponent Calgary Stampeders.

Although the team went on a 2-0 start, a bye week gave the team a reality check, which would give the team 3 straight losses. At week 7 of the 2019 season, the Redblacks sit at 2-3 while Quarterbacks Jonathon Jennings and Dominique Davis have both struggled to throw Sinopoli’s way, as he only has 179 yards in the 5 games played. Sinopoli looks to refresh his mindset and focus on the small things, as him and the Redblacks fight for a win against Calgary tomorrow!

Interview Timeout

Q: You’re now in your 5th season as a Redblack, and you’ve now caught balls from both Henry Burris and Trevor Harris. This season, the two Dominique Davis and Jonathon Jennings have shared reps at the Quarterback position. What do you have to say about their transitions to starting quarterback?

A: “I mean both guys are great Quarterbacks and have had some big plays this year. Jennings is more experienced with the CFL because of his seasons in B.C, where he had lots of success and we knew that he was a great QB coming in. While Dom was with us last year, so he is a little more familiar with the system, the players and everything that’s going on in the offensive zone. I was excited to have two great guys at the position, it’s always great when you have two great quarterbacks as well. In the CFL you never know what can happen. It’s great, we have good communication, which is very important and they see the game very well so far it has been pretty good.”

Q: With the two quarterbacks a little unfamiliar with the offense, you haven’t seen the ball as much as you’re used to. Has it been frustrating for you to not have to opportunities to contribute to the offense?

A: “ I think I everyone individually can be frustrated, everyone’s wants to do as much as they can to help out. That’s what makes all of us competitive and at the same time, that’s how football goes. It’s a team game and there’s lot of moving parts, just stay on the course and you’ll be looked at. It’s frustrating that we’re not winning, and all the small things are being highlighted while everyone is doing all they can to get the next win.

Q: You’ve played in the CFL for over 7 years now, and played on some very good teams while having a few struggled seasons. What is different about this season compared to successful seasons you’ve had in the past?

A: “I’d just say that we’re young, we’ve got a group of guys that lack experience. In past years, we had a lot of veteran guys which made a experienced group, and with those groups, we also had some struggles. When you struggle with experienced guys, its much different because the guys have all went through it before, and everyone isn’t as worried as they are with young guys. This year, we are young, and worrying, we’ve all overcame struggles individually, so we can definitely overcome this

Q: In the 5 years here in Ottawa, you’ve had lots of success, but also struggled in each season, but the fans always kept supporting. What do you have to say about the support the fans have had?

A: “That’s the biggest thing, I think we have the best fans in the league, there’s nothing like it on gameday. I think I’ve talked about walking to TD Place before the game, the atmosphere is unreal. The excitement in the air is crazy. We’ve struggled at home, and the fans keep coming and supporting no matter the conditions. The fans are always having a good time, and we try and help them out and have a great game.”

REDBLACKS sign 5 to practice roster

American Defensive Back, Maurice Fleming

American Defensive Back, De’Chavon Hayes

American Defensive Back, Darius Jackson

Canadian Linebacker, Charles Brouseau

Canadian Long snapper, Michaeal Benson

Baltimore and Rose taking “Bros” to the next level

Sherrod Baltimore and Jonathan Rose, the two REDBLACKS DBs who’ve had so much success together here in Ottawa have now developed a name for themselves. Rose and Baltimore are now known as “The Bros”.

The Bros have are in their third season together, in their time together, their defensive duo have combined for 183 tackles, 10 interceptions, 6 fumbles and two touchdowns!

After losing in the 2018 Grey Cup last season, the two defensive backs stayed the off-season here in Ottawa.

The off-season gave the two the opportunity to explore the city, and show that they aren’t just great on the field but also off the field.

In the time the two spent in Ottawa for the off-season, the REDBLACKS fans really got to see how much they love this city, and the city loves them back.

Last week, the two all-stars started their own clothing line, “The Bros, 2 for 1 special” where they sell special edition hoodies and t-shirts. If you’d like one yourself, visit the link below to support “The Bros”!

REDBLACKS fall to 2-3 after a loss in Winnipeg

In a 31-1 loss to Winnipeg, the Redblacks had no luck on their side. With Jonathon Jennings left with 45 passing yards, and on the other side Matt Nichols and Streveler tallied up for 295 yards.

While we lost battle in the pass game, running back John Crockett who was named starter at Tuesday’s practice this week rushed for 88 yards while catching the ball twice for 20 yards which would leave him with 108 total yards on 17 touches.

In the same time that Crockett shined in his first start, both DeVonte Dedmon and Jerod Fernandez had successful starts to their careers.

Dedmon, who returned 7 punts and 5 kickoffs ran for a total of 191 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile on the defensive side of the ball, Jerod Fernandez rallied up 7 total tackles which helped out fellow linebackers Avery Williams and Anthony Cioffi in the tough loss.

Although the score didn’t show excellence, there were many bright spots to tonight’s game!

William Arndt, who is spending his second year in Ottawa was able to go in and get his first CFL snaps, where he’d lead the team in passing on just 4 completions going for 57 yards. While he threw for the most yards on the team tonight, he used his legs and gained an extra 13 yards to help Crockett with the run game.

The REDBLACKS defense had it’s struggles, but were able to find themselves in a good position for future games. The team, who brought up 4 new defensive guys for this week’s game because of injuries lost the fight in the long run, but came across with some tools. Jerod Fernandez, and DeAndre Farris ended the night with 12 total tackles in their first starts of their careers. Along with Fernandez and Farris, Avery Williams and Anthony Cioffi stay consistent as both of the linebackers tally up for 10+ tackles each!

Next week, we will face off against Calgary at TD Place on Thursday. John Crockett should be the starting running back, and we should also expect the same defense, as the newer guys become a little more experienced with the team.

Tune into tonight’s game in Winnipeg

Bold Predictions

Caleb Holley catches 5+ balls for 100+ yards

In the pre-season game against Hamilton, quarterback Jonathan Jennings threw to Holley 3 ties for 120 yards. Looks to be a favorite target in today’s match-up, with R.J Harris out, it’s time for Caleb Holley to shine.

John Crockett rushes for 100+ yards

In the pre-season, Crockett had 16 touches for 117 yards. After spending the first 3 games on the practice roster, Crockett dressed for last week’s home game VS Montreal. Against Montreal, Crockett ran for 62 yards on 8 carries.

The back has shown lots of potential when he’s given the chance, and today he is the starting running-back, where he has the chance to shine.

Defense comes in clutch with 2+ sacks and at least one turnover

In this week’s game, the team is down both Antoine Pruneau and Jonathan Rose. The two highly talked about DBs are out for 6+ games as they sit on the 6 game injured list. In the mean-time, the team has some additions! Kishawn Mcclain, DeAndre Farris and Jerod Fernandez all plan on getting their first career starts in Winnipeg. New guys mean new opportunities for the REDBLACKS! With the team with 3 new guys on the defense, they find themselves in a good position where the Veteran guys and the rookie guys can come together and make some plays.

Some big changes as the REDBLACKS touchdown in Winnipeg!

In this week’s game in Winnipeg, the REDBLACKS lose talent, but also gain where talent is lost. After 2 straight home losses, the boys are on the road in Winnipeg, but not all the boys. Antoine Pruneau, Jonathan Rose, RJ Harris, Seth Coate, Mossis Madu, Ettore Latanzio and Jonathan Newsome are all sidelined with injuries.

Seth Coate, Antoine Pruneau and Jonathan Rose were all placed on the 6 game injured list and will miss multiple games.

With some key losses on the defense and the offense, Marcel Dejardins has been busy moving players around the roster. Remember Devonte Dedmon? He’s back!!

Dedmon, who had a punt return TD in the pre-season is set to have all returning roles this Friday in Winnipeg!

Along with Dedmon, Wide Receiver Noel Thomas, Linebackers Jerod Fernandez and Jeff Knox Jr., DBs Kishawn Mcclain and DeAndre Mcclain have all been activated to the active roster for this week’s game.

Jonathon Jennings-Ottawa RedBlacks-pre-season-1june2019. Photo: Scott Grant

Oh yeah! Jonathon Jennings is also our starting QB. With Davis sidelined with injuries, Jennings and Arndt will be the two QBs in Friday night’s game in Winnipeg.