July 2, 2023

Hogan: Canadian Duo Taking Advantage of Opportunity

EDMONTON, AB - June 25, 2023: Toronto Argonauts vs Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday night.(Chris Lindsey / Toronto Argonauts)

It was the news nobody wanted to hear.

It was announced a week ago, just before the Toronto Argonauts game in Edmonton, that receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. would be out of the lineup due to injury.

In normal circumstances it would be a seismic announcement. Which team could afford to lose the league’s leading Canadian receiver in 2022 and a finalist for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian award?

It turned out the Argos would be just fine.

While Gittens’ return to the lineup this week is welcomed news, the two receivers who stepped up in his place were in a pretty good place this week.

Dejon Brissett and David Ungerer III combined for 7 catches, 138 yards and a touchdown against the Elks, with Ungerer adding a blocked punt on special teams.

Ungerer is in his fourth CFL season after signing with the Argos as a free agent on March 9. His first three years were spent in Hamilton after the Tiger-Cats made him the 11th overall pick of the 2019 CFL Draft. He arrived in Toronto knowing Gittens was penned in as the top Canadian receiver on the team.

“I’ve got to earn everything I get,” Ungerer told Argonauts.ca. “I knew I was going to come in here and do everything I could to earn a spot and show the coaches how versatile I am. That was my main goal going into camp and that’s what I’m continuing to do each day.”

Ungerer may not have made a lot of huge plays in training camp, but he did make a lot of very good plays, showing off the versatility that’s gotten him this far as a pro. In a camp where Gittens, Brissett and fellow Canadian Tommy Nield – now out with an injury – were all getting noticed every day, Ungerer was still able to impress.

It led to him not only making the team but putting him in a position to contribute. He did that with the blocked punt and a 44-yard touchdown on a broken play, where quarterback Chad Kelly broke a tackle to elude a sack, then hit a wide-open Ungerer who was aware that the play had extended and went into scramble mode, heading downfield.

“Playing with a quarterback like Chad that can run the way he does and break tackles and make plays behind the line of scrimmage, it’s a dream come true for a receiver,” Ungerer explained. “A lot of times that’s where the big plays come, from plays that have broken down and the quarterback is just looking for somebody to get open. You always have to be aware of that and understand the spots that you’re supposed to get to when he scrambles.”

Brissett learned all about Kelly last year, when both were a part of the team’s second offensive unit. Like it was for Ungerer, last Sunday provided a chance for the Mississauga native to show off his skillset.

“An opportunity was all I was looking for,” Brissett told Argonauts.ca. “I felt like I left some plays out there, but it was good to be out there with the guys, just playing a full game again. Communicating and celebrating with the guys and blocking for my teammates; just watching everybody make plays and being a part of it.”

The receiver arrived in Toronto with lofty expectations. The Argos made him the second-overall pick in the 2020 CFL Draft. He’s seen limited action since then, catching 19 passes for 233 yards in his first two seasons, while contributing on special teams.

Not being with the first offensive group isn’t an ideal situation for him, but he continues to prove his worth on the field when given the chance.

While he still desperately wants to play, he understands where he is on the depth chart – though both he and Gittens are listed as starters this week. It’s allowed him to be in a better place mentally.

“In my first couple of years it was definitely mentally challenging to go through that, just waiting around and also dealing with injury,” he confessed. “But this year I would say that mentally I’m right where I need to be. I control what I can, when the plays come my way make them; and that doesn’t have to be on offence, if it’s on special teams I want to lead the league in tackles. I just want to make the most of any opportunity.”

It’s been a good week for the Brissett family. The receiver led the Argos in receptions last week with four, while his younger brother Oshae signed a two-year deal with the Boston Celtics on Friday.

A basketball fanatic from Mississauga who is a Raptors fan, the older brother was asked point blank how he felt about the Celtics before Oshae signed the deal.

“The Boston Celtics were alright,” he said with a huge smile on his face. “But now they’re my favourite team in the NBA.”

The Argos are hoping the Brissett family has even more to smile about this Monday night when they face the BC Lions at BMO Field.