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Here are the 11 former Riders hunting for a Grey Cup in 2023

The green and white may have missed the playoffs for a second straight year, but there are plenty of familiar faces Rider faithful can keep an eye out for in Sunday’s Grey Cup game between the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In 2022, nine former Riders were vying for the most coveted trophy in Canadian football. This year there are 11, including both projected starting quarterbacks.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

Shawn Lemon (Rider in 2011, 2016)

Both of defensive end Shawn Lemon’s stints in Saskatchewan were very brief. His most recent moment as a Rider came in 2016 when he played in one game before being dealt to the Toronto Argonauts.

A CFL veteran, Lemon has played for all but two teams: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, this year’s Grey Cup host, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who will face his Alouettes for the title.

Darnell Sankey (Rider in 2022)

California-born linebacker Darnell Sankey spent the 2022 CFL season in green and white, where he recorded 121 tackles, three sacks and an interception.

Sankey left the Rider organization to join the XFL’s Arlington Renegades the following offseason, winning the league championship with the team before returning to the CFL as a member of the Montreal Alouettes, meaning a Grey Cup win would mark his second league championship in the 2023 season.

Cody Fajardo (Rider from 2019-2022)

Quarterback Cody Fajardo became the Rider starting quarterback after his opponent in this year’s championship and then teammate, Zach Collaros, was injured on the first play of the season in 2019.

Fajardo played so well in the weeks that followed, the Riders traded Collaros. The Riders made it to the Western Final that season, only to be eliminated by Winnipeg.

The charismatic quarterback re-signed with the Riders the following offseason, eventually agreeing to terms on a two-year deal that expired at the end of the 2022 season.

In 2021, where the Riders were again eliminated by Collaros and the Bombers in the Western Final.

Fajardo’s final season as a Rider saw the team miss the playoffs, leading to his departure and that of then-offensive coordinator and current Alouettes head coach, Jason Maas.

After an electrifying win over the heavily favoured Toronto Argonauts, the California product is in search of his first Grey Cup win as a starting quarterback but will need to overcome Collaros to do so.

Jake Harty (Rider from 2019-2022)

Canadian wide receiver Jake Harty was relatively quiet in the 2023 season, but came up big in the Alouettes first playoff game against the Hamilton Tiger Cats: scoring his first touchdown since 2017 to help Montreal capture the first win in its unlikely run to the Grey Cup.

Harty has primarily seen special teams use in Montreal this season.

Alexander Gagne (Rider from 2017-2019)

A pre-pandemic member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, fullback Alexandre Gagne returned to his home province to join the Alouettes for the CFL’s return to play in 2021.

Gagne’s usage this season was primarily on special teams, similar to his role in Saskatchewan.

James Tuck (Rider in 2022)

Another player who sees much of his work on special teams, James Tuck spent one season in Saskatchewan where he played in 15 games with 38 receiving yards in 2022.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Zach Collaros (Rider from 2018-2019)

For a second straight year, Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros will look to win a Grey Cup at the home stadium of a team he once played for.

Collaros joined the Riders in 2018 after a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, starting in 14 games his first season and guiding the team to a record of 10-4. Despite a western semi-final loss to Winnipeg, Collaros had a solid season overall and was re-signed by the Riders the following offseason.

The 2019 season started in heartbreak when Collaros was injured on the first play of the season by Simoni Lawrence, one of his former Ti-Cats teammates.

Amid the rise of Cody Fajardo in Riderville, Collaros was traded to the Toronto Argonauts for a conditional fourth-round pick.

Having never played a snap in Toronto, Collaros was dealt to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that same season, setting the stage for him to stepping up in the playoffs to help guide the Bombers past the Fajardo-led Riders and onward to their first Grey Cup since 1990.

Collaros is once again tasked with overcoming his successor in Saskatchewan if he hopes to win his fourth career Grey Cup.

Nick Demski (Rider from 2015-2017)

Winnipeg product Nick Demski spent his first few CFL seasons with Saskatchewan before trading in green and white for his hometown blue and gold in the 2018 offseason.

Demski’s final game as a Rider was the 2017 Labour Day Classic, when a broken foot cut his season short.

Jemarcus Hardrick (Rider in 2015)

Offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick started in eight games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2015 before leaving for the Bombers during free agency in 2016.

He’s a two time CFL All-Star, getting the nod in 2021 and 2023.

Willie Jefferson (Rider from 2016-2017)

Joining the Riders in 2016 after a stint in Edmonton, Willie Jefferson became a force of defensive dominance during his three seasons as a Rider.

Jefferson’s run in green and white was highlighted by a 2018 performance where he racked up 34 tackles, ten sacks and two interceptions. To top it off, he took both picks back to the end zone for a touchdown.

Leaving the team in 2019 via free agency, Jefferson signed in Winnipeg, going on to become the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player that season.

Patrick Neufeld (Rider from 2011-2013)

University of Saskatchewan product Patrick Neufeld was initially drafted by his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders in the fifth round of the 2010 CFL Draft, but opted to return to the Huskies that season.

The offensive lineman appeared in 37 games for the Riders until a trade sent him to Winnipeg in 2013. He may have missed out on that year’s Rider Grey Cup win, but he’s since won two with the Bombers in 2019 and 2021.

He’s been named a CFL All-Star for three straight years: 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The 110th Grey Cup game between the Alouettes and Blue Bombers gets underway from Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Sunday at 5 p.m.

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