First sack for Tom Sr.

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Immediately after dropping Kerry Joseph Friday night at McMahon Stadium, Tom Johnson pointed to the heavens.

It was an important moment for the defensive tackle as well as the Calgary Stampeders.

Through two games -- both losses -- the Stamps had just two sacks and put little to no pressure on quarterbacks.

But Johnson wasn't there. He was away for the funeral of his grandfather, Tom Johnson Sr., and it seems the team missed his presence.

So when he made his debut and recorded his first sack early in a 44-9 win over the Toronto Argonauts, it was an emotional moment for the 24-year-old first-year CFLer.

"That was special," Johnson said yesterday. "I'm dedicating this whole season to my grandfather.

"Before he passed, he was telling me to stay up here and be focused. Every play I make, I'm going to point up there and thank him."

The Stamps managed to get Joseph out of his comfort zone and got six sacks total. The constant pressure led to three turnovers that were all returned for touchdowns.

Through three weeks, the Stamps were mixing and matching, moving players around to find the right formula on the defensive line.

After the blowout win over the Argos, the starting four seem to be set with Johnson and Mike Labinjo in the middle and Odell Willis and Malik Jackson on the ends.

Willis and Jackson each had a pair of sacks against the Argos.

"We were always moving around and you don't know which guy will have that big game," Johnson said. "As a whole, we have a good unit at all times.

"Everybody that gets put into the game has the chance to make plays. We figured out things scheme-wise and fixed a couple of little errors in our game.

"Once we get the jitters worked out, you will see some more consistency in our game."

Considering the group lost Canadian tackle Alain Kashama (ankle) before halftime, the front four did a great job with the extra workload against the Argos.

It was getting so tough at one point Willis offered to take a few snaps inside to give Labinjo a break.

"That's my teammate. I want to have his back," Willis said. "I feel with our versatility, our entire defensive line can move across the board. When I see my teammate down, I want to go help him."

The addition of Johnson was supposed to help stop the running game, which seemed to be case as Argos starter Jamal Robertson only had 26 yards on the ground.

Johnson and Jackson set the tone early with a huge stuff on an inside run as the duo dropped Robertson for a loss.

Johnson grew up in Moss Point, Miss., where he played high school ball before going to Southern Mississippi.

His grandfather was always supportive of his football career, through two training camps with the Indianapolis Colts, a year in NFL Europe in Germany and into the Arena League.

Although he wasn't involved with football, he was proud of what his grandson was doing on the field.

"As I started playing football, my relationship with him got stronger," Johnson said. "When I was in high school and college, they never missed a game I played. My grandparents were always proud of me.

"Whenever we went to family events, they would be bragging about me. My grandfather was a big part of my life, so I'm dedicating this season to him."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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