Decade of dominance sees Sewell voted on to top CFL roster of 2010s
It’s a decade of dominance personified.
A Grey Cup champion and perennial all-star, Almondo Sewell was never in doubt when it came to voting in the Canadian Football League all-decade team.
The Edmonton Football Team defensive tackle has rewritten the book on how to apply pressure from the interior, and has made a career of showing sacks aren’t just something for edge rushers.
But the past 10 years didn’t exactly have a picture-perfect start for the six-foot-four, 290-pound product of Akron — where he posted a 44-rep bench press on pro day — whose rookie season was cut short after earning just one tackle in three games.
“They were going to cut him,” was all former two-time league-leading receiver and fellow all-decade player Adarius Bowman could muster through laughter when asked about his former teammate.
They did, in fact, on Aug. 2, 2011, but would bring him back the following year on his way to West Division all-star honours. And the rest, as they say, is history. Sewell went on to reach league all-star status six out of the next seven seasons, with a rare (but still productive) off year in 2018 that only served to stoke his competitive fire.
“I’m not undermining this one at all, but the one that really stuck out to me was the (Edmonton Football Team’s) all-time greatest players,” Sewell said of TSN’s all-time team roster released this summer, which had him as the sole active member among the giants of the club’s rich history. “That one right there meant a lot more to me than anything, to be honest with you.
“But this one, though, it really shows how much sacrifice actually went into all this, because, man, it was a lot. A whole lot.”
And that made it a whole lot harder, still, to give up — even temporarily — with the cancellation of the 2020 season. And with it, a year’s worth of prime for the 33-year-old native of Buff Bay, Jamaica.
“As soon as I found out the season wasn’t going to happen, which was back in January, I’d be lying if I told you I’ve been sitting there working out the entire time,” Sewell said. “To be actually honest with you, I haven’t worked out not one bit since January.
“I ran a couple times with my girlfriend and then that was it.”
Then again, we’re talking about Almondo Sewell, who could previously be seen upstairs in the Commonwealth Stadium Community Recreation Centre casually warming up with four plates a side (or just over 400 pounds) on the bench press.
With the 2021 schedule released one day after the all-decade team was announced Thursday, beginning with a visit by the Saskatchewan Roughriders to Commonwealth Stadium on June 12, it’s a safe bet Sewell will have himself ready to pick up the new decade right where he left off the old one: On the top of the heap, quite literally, as he crashes the middle of the pocket on opposing quarterbacks.
And they can consider this fair warning.
“I’m built very differently. You just let me know whenever the season’s coming up, I’ll start training my months in advance. But it kind of happened in a good way too,” he said of the cancellation. “A year for me just to sit down so I can get my body all the way back, which I’ve never felt this good before. Ever.
“You play defensive tackle, it’s a head-butting contest going on. There’s no doubt about it. The time you get off right now, you should be focused on getting the right nutrition, which I am. I’ve done all that, except keeping lifting and running. I do my body cleanses and everything. As soon as the new year rolls over, I’m hitting the gym running. I just want to make sure I’m ready to go if it does happen.”
In the meantime, Sewell counts himself fortunate to be among those CFL players who were able to find gainful employment in a harsh reality away from the gridiron over these past months.
“They treat me really well here at Park Derochie,” Sewell said of the company he’s spent the past six off-seasons with, adding it’s kept him physically active with no football all year. “We do a lot of metal fabrication, so you’re constantly on the move. There’s never an easy day at this place. I’m always walking around. My weight always stays the same, I’m sitting at 290 on the dot right now. It never changed.
“I hope they read this, there’s about three people there and if it wasn’t for them, I’d be in a much worse position right now. Honestly, I’d be f—–d. They gave me a great opportunity to learn and make money. I took it and I’m running with it.”
As for how much more he has to give to the league once it finally gets back on its feet, Sewell’s mounting accolades can probably speak for themselves.
“They can say whatever they want,” he said. “I just let my pads do the talking.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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