November 10, 2022

Humble returner Worthy brings quiet confidence to Als heading into East Final

During an off-season, most teams like to make a splash acquisition or two to improve their roster. There are also other transactions that fly under the radar that end up paying off in a big way.

That’s where kick-returner Chandler Worthy comes into the picture. Worthy was cut in training camp by the Toronto Argonauts, who the Alouettes will play in the East Division Final on Sunday. He was a free agent for a little more than a day before the Alouettes brought him to Trois-Rivieres to join their camp.

In hindsight, that acquisition should have gotten a lot more attention than it did when it happened in late May.

“When I saw his name pop up on the free-agent list during training camp, I texted Danny (Maciocia) right away,” special teams coordinator Byron Archambault said. “This is a guy we needed to get right away. Whether it was to compete as a returner, or whether it was to compete on the offensive side, this is a guy we need to get. You can see on film that this is a guy who gives everything he’s got. He’s got some twitch; he’s got some burst and some vision that you can’t really teach.”

Worthy entered camp in a three-way competition with Mario Alford, who was eventually traded to Saskatchewan and who is the West Division nominee for outstanding special teams player, and rookie Warren Newman, who was cut earlier this season.

Alford opened the season as the starting returner in Calgary, but he suffered an injury and was forced to miss Week 2 in Toronto. That’s when Worthy got his first shot with the Alouettes. Not only did he not give up the job after that, but he was also chosen as the East Division’s most outstanding special teams player.

“I didn’t look at it as competition,” Worthy said of his training camp battle with Alford and Newman. “I looked at it as an opportunity. I had good people around me, so this is going to force me to be better, and this is going to force all of us to be better. The best man will win. I used to study with Warren Newman. We used to come in, and we used to watch Devin Hester, we used to watch the team we were playing. I used to talk to Mario to ask him what he sees. Whoever was going to start wanted to be the best man out there. It wasn’t about competition, but it was more so about bettering the team. If it was meant for me to be standing back there, then it will happen. If it’s not, well I did my part to help the team win.”

You don’t often hear professional football players talk that way. They all want to be the go-to guy, but when you speak to Worthy, you quickly realize that he is genuine and humble. He really does want what’s best for the team, whether he plays or not.

Here’s an example of Worthy being a team-first guy:

Archambault hands out a pair of sunglasses to a deserving special teams performer every week. According to Archambault, Worthy won one pair during the regular season.

Instead of keeping the glasses for himself, he gave them to Alford, who he was technically in competition with him at the time.

“We were sitting in the meetings, and I could tell that he was down,” Worthy said of Alford. “We were friends even when we played in Toronto. I could tell he was down. I had been playing well and he was already a good returner, so I know he felt like he should be playing as well. We were just in meetings, and we were talking, and he mentioned that he wanted a pair of shades. That’s my friend, and I loved the shades, and I thank (Archambault) for getting them for me, but in that moment, seeing (Alford) happy meant more to me than walking out with shades, and feeling like I did something special. For me, it was about picking him up and helping him bring his confidence back up was more important to me.”

That’s the kind of teammate Worthy is.

Returning to Toronto

Worthy has played three games against his former team, the Argos, this season, but none was as important as this coming Sunday’s game in Toronto. A berth in the Grey Cup is on the line.

“I wouldn’t say it means more because I’m playing Toronto,” Worthy, who was cut by the Argos on four different occasions, said. “I would say it means more because I truly, with all my heart, want to win for my teammates that I feel this bond with. For me, I’m not looking at my opponent thinking this is the team that cut me four times, I’m looking at them as the team trying to stop me to get to our ultimate goal, and I refuse to let them stop me. There is no added pressure. If anything, there’s more confidence because I know that field, I know that team, and I know who I’m going up against. So, I’m walking in with the mindset of dominating and getting to that Grey Cup. I don’t care who is standing in the way.”

Worthy had some stellar moments with the Argonauts over the years, but it looks like the fresh start in Montreal helped take his game to another level. The 29-year-old scored two touchdowns on kick-off returns in 2022 and he found a way to make an impact in most games. Even when he doesn’t score, he helps his team win.

Last Sunday’s playoff win over Hamilton was a perfect example of that. He didn’t return a kick for a touchdown, but he helped put his team in scoring position at least twice. On the opening kickoff, he returned the ball 49 yards into Ticats territory. A few plays later, Trevor Harris threw a touchdown pass to Jake Wieneke to give the Als the lead.

With the offence sputtering in the third quarter, he returned a punt 47 yards to the Hamilton 18-yard line. The Alouettes managed to kick a field goal on the ensuing drive, and they increased their lead to 11 points in the process.

“There’s so much more to Chandler than you see on film,” Archambault added. “It all marries itself together. Chandler is one of 12. There are 11 other guys on that field that block and give their all for him, but there’s a reason they give their all for him. They love to work for him. This is a guy who always puts other people before him.

“I know this (game) is special [for him]. The first game we played Toronto with Chandler a few weeks ago, you can see in his preparation and his focus that it goes beyond the game. There’s a little personal touch to it. I respect that, I respect that a lot. I wanted to him as much success as we can this week, and collectively, too.”