Dequoy’s move to safety pays off

When Marc-Antoine Dequoy starred at the University of Montreal, he did so as the starting defensive back on the wide side of the field. But he knew that once he made the leap to the pro level, a change in position would be required.

“If you’re a Canadian defensive back, everyone knows that you’ll eventually be moved to safety,” Dequoy said. “That’s what I was told before I got to the CFL. I knew that that was a possibility. There are certain ‘Canadian’ positions in the league, and on defence, safety is one of them.”

The 29-year-old, who was drafted by the Alouettes in the second round of the 2020 CFL Draft, has only been playing his new position for three seasons. This is only his second year as a starting safety, but he’s adapted quickly. He finished the 2023 regular season with five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, 57 defensive tackles and five more on special teams. He also added an interception near the end of last Saturday’s win over the Ticats in the East Division Semi-Final.

“The biggest adjustment you need to make (when going from defensive back to safety) is the vision of the game,” he explained. “When I was in university, it was rare for me to find myself in the deep areas of the field. I was mostly in the short areas (closer to the line of scrimmage). So, your view of the action is different. You see less of the entirety of the play and your angles of pursuit are different. When you’re the safety, you see the entire field and you have to read the opposing quarterback. It’s almost like a game between you and him. The quarterback needs to pay attention to all the defensive players, but his first look is often to the safety.”

Reading the quarterbacks eyes is a key part of being a safety. The greatest ones can anticipate what’s going to happen before the ball is thrown. It’s a tricky position to play because there’s a lot of ground to cover. The safety will often help a defensive back who is in one-on-one coverage with an opposing receiver. To do so, that player needs to anticipate where the quarterback is going with the ball after the snap.

Dequoy has that ability, he also has a high football IQ, and he also happens to be one of the fastest players on the field.

“I rely on my instincts quite a bit,” he added. “I use my instincts a lot on the field. When I see something, I react right away. (Defensive coordinator) Noel Thorpe has taught me that I need to read slow, react fast. That’s something that has helped me a lot because he showed me that I needed to react differently, but he never prevented me from sticking to my strengths.”

For the first time in his career, Dequoy was named to the CFL’s East Division All-Star team, and he is one of two finalists for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award, which will be handed out on Nov. 16 at the CFL Awards banquet in Hamilton.

“I’m thankful for everyone that helped get me there,” Dequoy said. “There are 11 other guys on the field with me, and I also have a coaching staff that has helped me develop into a better player. I’ve had a lot of help me get here.”

The Most Outstanding Canadian Award will be given to Dequoy or Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira.