When Kristian Matte told the story that would lead him to first lift the precious and coveted Gray Cup trophy, his eyes began to water. Over the moon since Sunday night, the 38-year-old veteran refuses to see beyond the festivities and parades surrounding this victory.
The 6-foot-4, 296-pounder spent 13 seasons with the Alouettes. He was just a rookie on the sidelines when the Sparrows last lifted this iconic Canadian football trophy in 2010. It was also the end of a winning era.
Matte waited 13 years and crossed very stormy tides in the dark moments of the organization. But he never gave up and lowered his flag. He hoped. And with each launch of the season, he told himself that it would get better.
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“It’s a really special feeling. There are no words to describe it,” he said in the season report at the door of the Olympic Stadium locker room.
“It’s been a whirlwind since our victory,” he added. I am extremely proud of the fans and our team.
“We don’t fall from the seventh heaven.”
Matte would obviously like to stick with it because at his age he knows retirement is nearing. Will they come back next year and defend this championship?
“We finally succeeded. We won with hard work. I don’t want to think about next year. I tell myself that two in a row would be a lot of fun, but I’m not ready to think about it yet.”
As the week progressed ahead of the final match in Hamilton, several teammates discussed the procedures in the event of a victory. It was Marc-Antoine Dequoy who first joked about who would be the first to lift the trophy.
It didn’t take long for Matteo’s name to make the rounds in the dressing room and he was chosen without hesitation.
“Thirteen years of waiting is a very long time. He has everyone’s respect. He’s a veteran who has given his heart and soul for the team,” said Dequoy, who highlighted the leadership of the quarterback who learned from the 2009 and 2010 epics.
“It took a little old man on the team to lift the trophy,” Matte joked, his eyes red with emotion. Everyone wanted it for each other in that locker room.”
As the 2023 campaign dawned, Matte felt a little of that in the locker room atmosphere and saw a little spark. Eight months later, against all odds, he was crowned champion with his band.
Photo author: Photo by Martin Chevalier
“I blocked out bad times and bad seasons in my career,” explained the man who refused to give up. Every year I hoped. Thirteen years was a long time.”
Whatever he decides about his future, no one will be able to make him forget the intense moments lived since Sunday night. A real treat for someone who has stayed in the nest for more than a decade.