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It’s always special to see an American CFL player embrace a Canadian city as his own. After spending two seasons with the Stampeders, Dallas, Texas native Raheem Wilson was ready to make Calgary his home in 2022. The business side of football had other plans for him though.
Wilson, who joined the Stamps in 2019, played six games for the team last season before being released on August 2nd. The veteran admits that he wasn’t playing up to his abilities at the time of his release, but the fact that he was cut came as shock.
“I was blindsided,” Wilson admitted. “A release was definitely not something I could see coming. I would say that in the games leading up to (my release) I wasn’t playing to my full capabilities; I can say that. My standards for myself are high. I thought some moving around could have taken place. That’s what I would’ve expected to happen, but for them to just let me go was not something I could’ve predicted.”
The 29-year-old wasn’t out of work for very long, as the Alouettes scooped him up just a few days later. Wilson made his Montreal debut on Sep. 2 in a game against the Ottawa Redblacks. He became a starter instantly, as teammate Najee Murray was out with an injury.
To Wilson’s credit, he played really well. In seven starts with the Als, he registered 20 tackles and wasn’t shy about making plays near or below the line of scrimmage.
Unfortunately for Wilson, he suffered the first major injury of his career on Oct. 22 in a home game against the Toronto Argonauts. He stepped up to make a tackle on Argos receiver Markeith Ambles, who lost five yards on the play. But in the process, Wilson suffered a serious knee injury that would put an end to his season.
Initially, he thought he hyperextended his knee, but doctors informed him that he had torn his left ACL.
“It was a strange injury,” Wilson, who is rehabbing his injury in Calgary right now, said on Friday afternoon. “I knew something wasn’t right as soon as I tackled him. I just felt something off in my knee. I tried to walk it off a little bit, but I immediately sat down because I needed to get it looked at.
“That’s a play I had made countless times in the CFL by reading a screen pass. I acted on it, and I guess I just overextended myself.
“I was lucky enough to have only torn my ACL. A lot of people were telling me that sometimes when an ACL injury happens, sometimes other things might get messed up as well.”
Wilson had surgery on his knee on Nov. 17 in Montreal and he returned to Calgary in December to begin the rehab process. He should be able to resume running in the next couple of weeks. He’ll continue to do physiotherapy in Alberta for the next little while, but he’s planning on returning to Dallas to complete his rehab before training camp.
The injury didn’t scare off general manager Danny Maciocia at all, as he rewarded Wilson with a new contract for the 2023 season, on Thursday.
Als training camp, which begins in May, will put Wilson at the sixth month mark in his recovery. That means he could be near 100 percent by then. Doctors have informed him that this injury typically takes six to nine months to heal.
“I have never been through (an injury) like this,” he said. “If I’m ready for camp, that will be great. If it takes a little bit longer, I want to make sure that I don’t come back too fast because I want to enjoy this season with Montreal because I feel it could be a big one.”
Wilson admitted that he was mildly concerned about whether the Alouettes organization would want him back only because of the knee injury. But he fit in so well, so quickly that the Als felt he was a critical asset for them.
“When I got (to Montreal), I was happy,” Wilson, who has experience at every position in the secondary including safety, said. “The locker room was wonderful. The coaches and everybody embraced me fully. They made it an easy transition for me.”
When talking to Wilson, you can feel that he wants to prove his doubters wrong. That includes his former team, the Stampeders. When asked if he had circled the two games against Calgary on his calendar, he responded (with a laugh) by saying: ‘What do you think?’
When he was asked if he knew when the two games against Calgary were, he answered without hesitation: ‘They come to the nest on July 30th and Montreal travels there on Sep. 23rd’.