June 23, 2020

Looking back on the 2019 home opener with Will Stanback

MONTRÉAL – Tonight at 7 p.m., RDS will be presenting the July 4, 2019 game where William Stanback led the Montreal Alouettes to a 36-29 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

It was our Alouettes’ third game of the season, and the first one at home in 2019. They were entering Percival Molson Stadium with an 0-2 record, having lost against Edmonton and Hamilton in weeks 1 and 3.

Montréals’ season opener in Edmonton didn’t go as planned, as Vernon Adams Jr had to unexpectedly take over for injured Antonio Pipkin halfway through the battle. With Antonio Pipkin still sidelined with a high ankle sprain, Vernon Adams Jr. got the start in Hamilton the following, where the Ticats easily prevailed 41-10. For Khari Jones, who had been catapulted at the head coach position, it was evident that some changes needed to be made for the home opener.

The July 4 game was Khari Jones’ first win as a head coach. (Dominick Gravel/Alouettes de Montréal).

And on July 4, these adjustments showed mostly at ground level, when running back William Stanback exploded for 203 rushing yards on 22 carries and scored no less than 3 touchdowns.

A slew of records was shattered that day. It was the first time that an Alouettes player scored three touchdowns in a single game since Brandon Whitacker in 2012, the first time that a running back rushed for over 200 yards since Mike Pringle in 1998, and the first time that an Alouettes player scored three rushing touchdowns since Jarrett Payton in 2007. This festival of firsts could have been the theme of this duel. Let’s not forget that it was also Montreal’s first win in 2019 and Coach Jones’ first win as the birds’ head coach.

Yes, I remember that game,” said Stanback on the phone, who was barbecuing for his family in Hempstead, in the state of New-York.

We started the season with a 0-2 record. The first game that we lost against Edmonton, we felt like we were so close to getting the win, but we just didn’t have enough time. When we lost against Hamilton two weeks after…ouch. We treated this second consecutive battle against the Ticats as a rematch, and there was no way we were going to let them beat us on our turf.”

Plus, it was two days before my birthday, which is on July 6th – so this was a very special game for me. I wanted to give everything I had on the field and my teammates helped me be the best version of myself as a player. The motivation was easy to find, and with the help of the guys at offense, I pushed and pushed, started gaining yards, and got in the zone.”

Records were set, tears were shed as Luc Brodeur-Jourdain was playing his last game in the CFL after an 11-year career and two Grey Cups, and it was Stanback’s birthday two days after…The air was nothing short of electric at Percival Molson Stadium.

It was crazy,” said Stanback, talking about the atmosphere before and after the game. “We were scoring touchdown after touchdown and the crowd was cheering so loud. When you know the fans are behind you, it gives you the energy you need to accomplish great things. We were so lucky to have such passionate fans in Montreal. And we trying to do everything we could to get Montreal to playoffs and hopefully get the Grey Cup.”

It meant a lot to know that the fans were supporting us.”

With his 203 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, Stanback felt that his performance, along with the stunning win by the Alouettes, set the tone for the 2019 season. (Dominick Gravel/Alouettes de Montréal).

For Stanback, this game set the tone for the remainder of the 2019 season for our Alouettes…and he even kept one of the game balls as a souvenir.

It gave us a lot of motivation,” he said. “When I reached the 200 rushing yard mark, I felt like I could get to that level every game. But the other teams also did their homework and I got stopped in my tracks a few times afterward.” 

“We felt that together, we could dominate on offense against every team. “

The Alouettes ended the season raking second in the CFL for most rushing yards, and Stanback placed third in the league, behind Andrew Harris and William Powell.

The 25-year-old running back certainly had his most productive season in 2019, with 1,048 rushing yards and five touchdowns off 170 carries, along with 3 receptions for 329 yards…all this, in 14 faceoffs. A pretty impressive feat, considering it was only his second season with the Alouettes and in the CFL.

The ultimate goal: NFL

On January 1st, 2020, the Alouettes released Stanback to allow him to pursue opportunities in the NFL. The next day, he signed a contract with the Oakland Raiders, who will become the Las Vegas Raiders at the beginning of the upcoming season. Stanback will certainly want to recreate his July 4th performance to impress the Raider’s coaching staff and secure his place on the team.

I believe in myself. I’ve been practicing this sport for a long time, and I am very strong mentally,” he said. He still hasn’t had the chance to train with the Raiders due to the pandemic, but he communicates with the team virtually every day. “I’m very grateful towards Raiders, because they are giving the chance to compete at an even higher level.”

 « I just want to be the best player I can be, on and off the field.”

“ When I reached the 200 rushing yard mark, I felt like I could get to that level every game. But the other teams also did their homework and I got stopped in my tracks a few times afterward.” 

– William Stanback

Even though he’s back in his hometown south of the border, Stanback keeps in touch with a few guys on the team, including Tyrell Sutton, Eugene Lewis, and James Wilder Jr.

We wish him much success in the NFL, but if things don’t work out as planned, would he consider coming back to the CFL and with the Alouettes?

The roster changes every year, so I would have to see which team I would best fit in, “explained Stanback. “If I can’t fit in elsewhere, I would like to come back to Montréal if things don’t work out with the NFL.”

But my goal right now is the NFL and I have the opportunity to secure my spot in the team for the next few years.”