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Matte ready for 14th season

In the days and weeks that followed the Alouettes Grey Cup win, many wondered whether starting right guard Kristian Matte would return for a 14th season. Did he want to go out on top, or did he still have something to prove? His decision, which became public when the organization announced that he had signed a one-year contract earlier this week, was made before the postseason even began.

“It took some time for me to make a decision, but I think I knew I was coming back even before the beginning of last year’s playoffs,” admitted Matte on this week’s French episode of the PodcAls. “I spoke to my wife, and she told me that I was still playing at a high level. She wanted to know if I was going to play another year. I think I just gave her a wink because I knew I wanted to keep playing.”

“About 30 minutes after the Grey Cup game was over, my family and I were on the field, and I told my wife and children that it would be fun to experience this again next year.”

Matte is much more than a football player on this team. Yes, he’s still playing well at age 38, but he also brings a lot of value off the field and in the locker room. Over the years, he’s developed into one of the more vocal leaders on the team. After good team performances and bad, he can be seen delivering emotional speeches in the room.

But being a leader will only take you so far in pro sports. Matte has also shown that he’s durable and that he can play at a high level. After a solid regular season in 2023, he took his game to another level during the Alouettes’ three-game playoff run. His durability has also been remarkable. He has missed just one game post-pandemic, and that was because the team decided to rest him in a meaningless tilt against the Toronto Argonauts in Oct. 2022.

“When you reach a certain age, you always need to make sure that you’re able to heal the bumps and bruises you accumulate along the way,” Matte said. “I’ve been lucky with injuries during my career. I feel good, and I feel young.”

For the first time in a long time, the Alouettes will head into a season with some continuity along the offensive line. Matte was the final piece of the projected starters to fall into place this winter. Nick Callender, Pier-Olivier Lestage, Justin Lawrence, Matte, and Jamar McGloster are all under contract for 2024. They’ll head into camp as the projected starting unit. Philippe Gagnon, who started two playoff games for an injured Lestage, also signed a new contract with the Als this week, and backup offensive lineman Jesse Gibbon inked an extension in December.

“I wasn’t surprised one bit to see him come back,” Lawrence said of Matte.

“With the way he played last year, I knew he had a lot of football left in him. The amount of times we watched film and I said ‘dang, is that 27-year-old Kristian Matte’. When he re-signed, I really wasn’t that surprised. He’s a heck of a football player. As good as he is on the field, he’s even better in our locker room and in our offensive line meetings. What a guy to have in there.”

Matte will be tied for third all-time in seasons played for the Alouettes, with legendary tight end Peter Dalla Riva. He trails Anthony Calvillo (16 seasons) and Scott Flory (15 seasons).