Grey Cup old hat for Lions' DB

BC Lions defensive back Tad Kornegay (L) pushes Edmonton Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps (R) out of...

BC Lions defensive back Tad Kornegay (L) pushes Edmonton Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps (R) out of bounds during the second half of their CFL football game in Vancouver, British Columbia October 29, 2011. (REUTERS/Nick Didlick)

Hosea Cheung, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:39 PM ET

The Grey Cup is nothing new to Tad Kornegay.

Far from it.

In fact, call the B.C. Lions defensive back a Grey Cup veteran. Or maybe a perennial finalist.

Either way, Sunday's big showdown at BC Place against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers marks Kornegay's third straight appearance at the CFL title game and his fourth in five years.

How's that for experience?

"It's crazy," the 29-year-old said. "This is my fourth Grey Cup in my career and I've only been playing for seven years. I don't want to say I'm used to being here, but I've been here a lot of times. I know what to expect and I know how to handle the pressure.

"There's a lot of great players that's never even been to the Grey Cup, let alone win it, so I feel blessed."

But along the way, he's also faced setbacks.

Kornegay felt the thrill of victory in 2007, when he won it all during his first visit to the big show with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. While he won't soon forget the euphoria, it was followed by a pair of finals he doesn't particularly want to remember.

The Roughriders, along with Kornegay, returned to the title game in 2009 but lost to the Montreal Alouettes in dramatic fashion -- a too many men penalty to the Riders in the final moments resulted in a heartbreaking 28-27 defeat. They met the Als again the following year, this time losing 21-18.

This year, Kornegay wants to snap the losing trend.

"I want this more badly than anybody," the Trenton, N.J., native said. "I lost the Grey Cup the worst way you can lose any game possible in '09. I can't lose another. I can't handle it. I got to do whatever it takes to win this Grey Cup."

And what a way to cap off a rollercoaster season if he does.

For a player who earlier this season felt the brunt of not being wanted by a team, Kornegay has come a long way. After two games with the Roughriders, the team he had spent the past four seasons with dropped him and his six-figure contract. He called it "depressing."

But since finding a home with the Lions soon after, and at the time helping an ailing secondary, Kornegay has been an impact player.

In 13 regular season games, he's racked up 36 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Most importantly, he's contributed to a rejuvenated defensive corps, one that has been transformed from the league's worst -- an average of 32.2 points allowed in the first five weeks -- to what is now the stingiest in the league.

Not many would have envisioned this kind of turnaround when Kornegay first arrived. Well, except him.

"It only takes one piece of that puzzle and I was that missing piece on defence; Arland Bruce was that missing piece on offence," he said. "I knew we had the potential to be here and as long as we gelled, we were Grey Cup contenders. I had a good feeling about it."

Linebacker Anton McKenzie, a teammate of Kornegay's on the 2007 'Riders team that beat Winnipeg for the championship, said the seven-year veteran definitely helped fill a void. Now he'll be vital in helping the Lions prepare mentally for the big game Sunday.

"This is the time of the week where we need that kind of experience and leadership," McKenzie said. "I'm sure he will address some guys on how to handle it and carry themselves throughout the week."

While it's far from the CFL record of nine Grey Cup appearances -- held by seven different players -- Kornegay treasures all the Grey Cup moments he's been in. And now, he wants more.

"It's a surreal feeling," he said. "I want to win the Grey Cup because I think I deserve to win it. I think the B.C. Lions deserve to win it. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be alive, it's going to be so crazy out there. And you got to play it like it's your last shot at the Grey Cup."

Then again, at the rate he's going, it may not be either.

 


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