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Sat Sep 16
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Raymond Brings Heart, Leadership To Argos Defence

During his eight years with the Stampeders, Keon Raymond became a staple in the Calgary sporting community. Now looking ahead to training camp, he’s still wrapping his head around the thought of playing somewhere else.

“I had to allow it to sink in,” he said.

“Turning to my kids and telling them that dad is going to play for another team and won’t be around during football season, it’s the nature of the game.”

A two-time Grey Cup champion with Calgary, Raymond became a fan favourite on and off the field. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound DB/LB hybrid tallied 24 interceptions and 337 tackles with the Stamps.

Aptly named “Big Play Ray,” he holds the franchise record for most defensive touchdowns.

He was also heavily involved in the community, working with Canadian Blood Services and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, while also assisting his wife Bianca, who founded the Back 2 School Drive, which helps kids afford school supplies.Keon Raymond Calgary 2

After spending his entire CFL career thus far with the Horsemen, Raymond signed with the Argonauts on the third day of free agency, enticed by the opportunity to win a Grey Cup on home turf at BMO Field.

“I’ve been in this league for a while and understand that this team has a real opportunity to win,” he said.

“I’m entrenched in the community (in Calgary) and I hope to do the same in Toronto. Family’s a big part of who I am and I want to bring that family atmosphere to the Argonauts.”

At 33, Raymond brings leadership and championship experience to a very young Argos and talented defensive secondary.

“It’s just like having a big brother when I’m out there.”

The likes of AJ Jefferson, Jermaine Gabriel and Devin Smith make Toronto’s defensive secondary as athletic as they come. But an added veteran presence will do wonders for their development.

“It’s all about communication. It was just like me when I first came into the league. You can play, but once you get the feedback from a guy who’s done it to see what other teams are trying to do to you, it helps a ton. It’s just like having a big brother when I’m out there.”

For additional sandpaper and experience in the secondary, the Argos also signed seven-year veteran and two-time Grey Cup champion Jerald Brown from Montreal.

Brown says it’s the little things in practice that he and Raymond can do that will help bring a group together, rather than established seniority.

“If you’re a leader, people will gravitate towards you and you don’t have to overtly establish a certain dominance because of years played in the league,” said Brown.

“Just seeing how you operate on a daily basis is what people look to as a leader.”

Keon Raymond Flag

Argos Defensive Backs coach Jordan Younger, a former CFL All-Star and two-time Grey Cup champion in his own right, welcomes the additional voices in team meetings.

“The experience level has gone up 15 years just between two guys,” said Younger.

“Having that kind of awareness with guys that can recognize things as they’re happening and don’t have to wait until film the next day to realize what the problem was, that’s a huge help.”

“It’s one band, one sound. I think I’ll embrace the opportunity to be a part of the band.”

Younger says a decision has not yet been made on where Raymond will line up on defence, as he alternated between defensive back and strong side linebacker with the Stampeders.

Raymond’s decision to sign with the Argos also reunites him with Defensive Coordinator Rich Stubler, who also left Calgary to join the Boatmen.

 

WATCH: Keon Raymond: “It’s a new start for Toronto football!

 

 

Under Stubler’s watch, he was part of a group that ranked second in the CFL against the pass in 2015, as well as in total net yards.

“He taught me how an offence thinks, what their mindset is, and that allowed me to produce on the field,” said Raymond.

“You want to soak up as much as you can from Rich. He’s always had one of the top defences wherever he’s been as a coach. I know with him in Toronto and the good offence they have, we’ve got a great shot at the Grey Cup.” June 28, 2007; Toronto, ON; BC Lions defeat the Toronto Argonauts 24-22 in the first game of the 2007 CFL season at Rogers Centre. Photo/Copyright John E. Sokolowski

Chemistry development was expected to be a process early on last year with so many young players learning the CFL game alongside one another. The addition of Stubler and Raymond should help expedite that in 2016.

“It’s tough when you have five DB’s and everyone’s out there playing to a different tune,” said Raymond.

“It’s one band, one sound. I think I’ll embrace the opportunity to be a part of the band.”

Raymond recently penned a farewell letter to the city of Calgary, expressing his gratitude for eight great years. Looking forward, his excitement to participate in a new era of football in Toronto has overtaken him.

“It’s a new beginning. Seeing the new ownership group and going into a new field at BMO, it’s a new chapter for Toronto football and I’m overjoyed to be a part of it.”