On most plays, Cam Judge is just that …
He is usually the jury and executioner, to boot, oft-hearing his name called for credit of a sack, a tackle, an interception, a forced fumble …
It goes on and on for the Calgary Stampeders defensive standout.
But somehow, Judge didn’t hear his name called Thursday during the CFL’s division all-star selection day.
“I think it was a snub,” said teammate Reggie Begelton, one of four Stampeders voted in as West Division all-stars. “A linebacker with five picks and a pick-six? He’s a major aspect on our defence. Congratulations to everybody else, but that’s a big surprise.
“If I could half mine up, I would sure enough give it to him.”
Indeed, if anybody’s deserving of joining receiver Begelton — with his 86-catch, 1,119-yard season — centre Sean McEwen — in the hunt for his fourth league all-star honour — defensive lineman Mike Rose — now three straight years named a division all-star — and linebacker Micah Awe — the league’s leading tackler with 134 defensively — it’s surely Judge.
“You’ve got a guy who get 90 tackles, five interceptions, one touchdown, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, three tackles for losses and two sacks, and you don’t get West Division all-star?” said Awe, listing off Judge’s sensational stats on the 2023 season. “I mean … that’s an all-star’s all-star. That’s actually a defensive most-outstanding-player-type year.”
That’s a snub.
But it might just make for a little added motivation for the 2022 CFL all-star at just the right time of year.
A snubbed Judge come Saturday’s West semifinal against the host BC Lions (4:30 p.m., TSN, QR Calgary FM) could come in handy.
After all, the stars have got to be stars on the biggest of stages — especially for a six-win Stamps side — and the stages don’t get bigger than playoffs.
So one with a point to prove — such as Judge — could be big for the underdog club.
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“We always preach 12-strong, meaning one guy has to be one-12th of the solution, and if one guy isn’t pulling his weight, you can still have negative plays,” said Stamps GM/head coach Dave Dickenson. “But I think you’re remembered a lot for your playoff performances. I really do. If you go there and dominate a game, people remember that.
“And Cam’s one of our best at (dominating games),” continued Dickenson. “I’ve given him a lot of credit on the year, and he knows it. But that’s the way (the selection) goes. All-stars usually come from winning teams, and we were not a winning team during the regular season.”
But when they are winning, it’s Judge usually doing a lot of damage.
Take for instance the turning point of the year for the Red and White on Oct. 13 — that was unlucky Friday The 13th for the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders. Judge’s pick-six in the third quarter turned the game in favour of the Stamps, propelling them to the 26-19 pivotal victory and pushing them in the path to capture the CFL’s final playoff slot.
“I pride myself on making those game-changing plays,” said the 28-year-old one-time Canadian on the NCAA’s UCLA Bruins. “Coming into the season, I actually had a higher number in my head for picks. There was a little stretch when the ball wasn’t really being thrown my way that much, so once they started coming my way again, I had to be prepared — and I feel I was able to do that.
“I didn’t reach the number I set for myself, but I’ll take five any year. I think I can get higher than that, but it depends on if they scheme away from me, like some of the teams were doing at the midpoint of the year.”
The Lions? They’re likely to do the same come the semi.
“Oh, yeah … I feel every game I want to be the one making the play,” continued Judge. “But I’ve got faith in all the guys around me that anybody’s able to make the play, so we’re going to see who steps up (Saturday).”
The all-stars — plus snubbed Judge — are the first guys to look for in that regard.
“Going into the post-season, you’ve just got to take it up a notch” added Begelton. “The (all-star) accolade reflects that you had the capabilities of taking it up a notch and getting it done when it really matters, and playoffs is when it really matters.”
Affable d-lineman Rose wasn’t sure how to accept this year’s all-star recognition after twice being named to the division and league squads in 2021 and 2022. “Aw, man … I’m a bum,” said Rose, despite his CFL-best 11-sack campaign. “Honestly, you know what’s crazy? In my personal opinion, I played one of my worst years. But it’s turned out to be one of my best years. I’m just really hard on myself, I guess.” … Rose then went on to praise his fellow all-stars. “Micah had a great year — a lot of tackles, a lot of big plays. Me and Sean go at it all the time, so I already know Sean is the real deal. And Reggie is always a consistent receiver.” … “I’m happy for those four,” added Dickenson. “You know … we didn’t have the year we wanted, but we did have some great performances. I’m always proud of other teams recognizing our players.” … The division all-stars were selected by the local voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada, the division’s head coaches and fans who took part in this year’s selections through the CFL All-Star Fan Vote.