January 26, 2024

Blake and Mace are back in the same place

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ recently appointed field boss is hardly a new coach from the perspective of Philip Blake.

Blake and Corey Mace both helped the Toronto Argonauts win a Grey Cup championship in 2022.

Now they are reunited with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who announced the hiring of Mace on Nov. 30. He had spent the previous two CFL seasons as the Argonauts’ Defensive Co-ordinator.

Blake, who signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent last February, agreed to a one-year contract extension earlier this week.

“We played Toronto in the last game of the season last year,” recalled Blake, 38. “I talked to Corey Mace after the game and he said, ‘You’ve still got it. You’re still good to go. I appreciate everything you do.’

“When he got the Head Coaching job, he reiterated that to me. He said, ‘You’ve still got it in you. I like the way you play and your style of game,’ so that also gave me more motivation to come back and finish what I started.”

Blake started his CFL career with the Montreal Alouettes in 2015. He was an Alouette until being traded to Saskatchewan on Oct. 10, 2018.

He remained with the Roughriders through the 2019 season before joining the Argonauts via free agency.

After COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 campaign, the Toronto-born Blake played with his hometown team for two seasons.

He was the Argonauts’ starting left tackle when they defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 in the 2022 Grey Cup game, played at Mosaic Stadium.

Blake rejoined the Roughriders in 2023, when Mace helped Toronto post a 16-2 record and tie the CFL record for regular-season victories.

“Winning is contagious,” said Blake, who recovered from a broken leg in time to help the 2019 Roughriders surge toward first place in the West Division. “Once you have a formula of winning, you know how it looks and how it feels.

“You don’t want to compare seasons, but there are certain things that happen in a season or a way certain practices go and how they look. You bring that winning culture by doing it the right way.

“Corey’s going to continue that in Saskatchewan and I’m just happy to be a part of the beginning of it.”

Mace has been a part of three championship teams since becoming a CFLer in 2010.

He has celebrated a title as a player (with the 2014 Calgary Stampeders), a Defensive Line Coach (2018 Stampeders) and, as mentioned, a Defensive Co-ordinator (Toronto, 2022).

What makes him such a well-established winner?

“Just the type of person he is and the type of man he is,” Blake replied. “He’s an ex-player and he gets it. He gets it on both sides.

“He’s a younger guy, but he creates that balance between the coach and the players and he’s able to relate to the young guys.

“When I was in Toronto, the defence loved him and rallied around him. It was special to see that year and I’m pretty sure he’s going carry it over here.”

The energy is already evident, several months before Mace conducts his first practice as a Roughrider.

“He’s a great leader,” Blake continued. “He’s going to get everyone in the locker room engaged. We’re going to have fun and we’re going to do it his way. “For the O-line, he wants it to be very aggressive and to be dominating people, and that’s what I bring.”

Blake also brings experience — which, in his case, should not be interpreted as age.

The 2022 Grey Cup provides just one example of Blake’s ability to play at a high level well into his 30s.

Also consider the impact he had on the Roughriders’ offensive line over the team’s final six games of 2023, following his return to the lineup from a torn pectoral muscle he had suffered in the pre-season finale.

“I’m just excited,” Blake said. “I know I’ve been hurt the last two times I’ve been in Saskatchewan, so I’m just trying to put out a good product so the fans can see me and see what I do.

“Yeah, I’m up there in age, but I can still do it and the tape’s going to show it.”

  • Kelly Malveaux, who made his CFL debut with the Roughriders in 1999, died on Wednesday at age 47.

Malveaux joined the Roughriders’ practice roster on Sept. 29, 1999 and subsequently played in two games. He signed with the NFL’s New England Patriots the following February.

After returning to the CFL, he played for the Stampeders (2001-03), Alouettes (2004-05), Blue Bombers (2006-09) and Edmonton Elks (2009).

He was a CFL All-Star defensive back in 2004 and 2008.