Micah Awe has been a tackling machine this CFL season.
A record-breaking one for the Calgary Stampeders.
But here’s something new for him to tackle — the playoffs.
“Oh, man, it’s my first-ever playoff game,” said Stampeders linebacker Awe, amped up in anticipation of Saturday’s West Division semifinal against the host BC Lions in Vancouver (4:30 p.m., TSN, QR Calgary FM).
“Six years into it, you know I’m not comparing myself to Michael Jordan, but he didn’t win his first championship until his sixth year,” the 29-year-old continued. “It took him six years to get there, so you know sometimes it’s not like you’re not good. It’s just it’s a team sport.”
That said, it’s a rarity for a CFL player to not have a playoff game under his belt after so long in the league.
Awe joined the Lions in 2017 and has played parts of a half-dozen seasons — including three with the BC club — on five different teams.
Of course, this one has been — by far — his best, putting up all-star numbers and shattering a team record in tackles with the Stampeders.
Awe had 134 on the regular season to soar past Alex Singleton’s mark of 123 set in 2017, which he equalled the following year. And Awe nearly tracked down former Lions teammate Solomon Elimimian and his CFL single-season high standard of 144 tackles recorded in 2017.
“It feels amazing,” Awe said of his first year with the Red and White. “My goal was to beat Solly and his 144. That was really my goal, but I didn’t get there surprisingly. What was I? Ten off? I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get that.
“But at the same time, shoot, I worked really hard and I’m just glad it transferred to my season this time. I work hard every season, but not every season do you get a record-breaking season.”
It’s not every season you make the playoffs with such a sub-.500 record.
However, the Stamps are into the post-season with a 6-12 mark, giving Awe a chance to continue to chase down ball-carriers in his hunt to help the club find surprising success in the chase for the Grey Cup.
The problem is, Awe is no longer a question mark.
Every enemy out there, including the Lions, knows what he brings to the field. A guy recording that many tackles is bound to turn heads.
“The struggle is when people know that you’re getting close to that record is that people are now scouting you differently,” Awe said. “The O-line knows they’ve gotta block this guy. So things get harder, so the only thing you can do is work harder.
“The target on your back is way bigger. So all I did was work harder. Because it’s not anything you can control except for that. Because when you go into a game, you’re always going to have the opportunities to make all the tackles in the world. But you do have to work hard and put in that work and keep getting better no matter what.
“And the better you get, the better you are and the better the team is.”
During last Friday’s regular-season capper, Awe was credited with a whopping 13 tackles — four more than the next highest total by a teammate in that 36-13 home loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
So the 5-foot-11, 228-pound linebacker is ready for his first playoffs.
“To me, it’s increasing what you do,” said the native of Nigeria, who starred for the NCAA’s Texas Tech Red Raiders. “So I’m increasing the extra tackling I do after practice and watching a whole lot of film. Have we played BC three times this year? Yes. Am I going to watch all three games again? Yes. Absolutely. That’s one nugget.
“All that hard work you put in through the season, it might just help you if it comes down to one play in playoffs,” Awe added. “So it just matters how much detail you put into your work. Because you might literally go home if you don’t make that play.
“So I just want to know at the end of the day that if that play comes my way, I’m going to be in the best possible position to make that play.”
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