Arms full, Toronto Argonauts center back Henoc Muamba knelt on the stage of Mosaic Stadium and cried after winning the first Gray Cup of his football career.
The 33-year-old doubled the individual title in the game.
Muamba was selected as the most valuable player and best Canadian in Toronto’s 24-23 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina on Sunday night.
“Still trying to figure out if this is real life,” Muamba said at the post-match press conference against his four-year-old daughter Thea and both trophies.
With the Argonauts leading by one point, Muamba blocked Bombers midfielder Zach Collaros late in the fourth half to prevent a potentially winning Winnipeg touchdown.
Muamba’s key pick at 3:20 brought Argos to Winnipeg’s 43-yard line.
Argos player Boris Bede’s attempt to score was thwarted, but Toronto’s Robbie Smith then thwarted a Bombers effort with 43 seconds left to secure the Argonauts’ first Gray Cup win since 2017.
VIEW | The Argonauts take down the Blue Bombers to claim their 18th Gray Cup title:
Muamba, a U Sports alum and all-time leader in tackles at St. Francis Xavier of Antigonish, NS, became the second CFL player to win both awards after returning to Andrew Harris in 2019.
Born in Kinshasa, Congo, Muamba grew up in Montreal and Mississauga, Ont. He attended Father Michael Goetz’s high school in Mississauga. His older brothers Cauchy and Kelvin also played in the CFL with Montreal and Saskatchewan respectively.
Muamba was a rookie to the Blue Bombers in 2011 when Winnipeg lost to the BC Lions in the Gray Cup. He didn’t appear in another Gray Cup until Sunday, when he also had three tackles and a knock-down pass.
“Eleven years of hard work. Eleven years of playing this game and all I want is to be great,” Muamba said. “To reach the top, there is nothing like it.”
The 6-foot-tall, 230-pound full-back almost had two picks on Sunday, but dropped the ball at the first opportunity.
Muamba said: “We couldn’t intercept without my first miss. “I just lost it. I lost it in the air.”
VIEW | Argonauts celebrate their Gray Cup victory in Regina:
His teammates Chris Edwards and Shaq Richardson have told him not to worry and that he will get another one.
“Who am I that I don’t believe in myself when I’m surrounded by people who believe in me so much, so deeply, so greatly?” Muamba said. “I felt like I let my teammates down after the first drop, but they supported me.
“When the second one came, there was no way I would let it fall.”
Muamba wears a bracelet that says “measured by letter” given to him by the Bombers chaplain when he was playing there.
“That’s the type of man we have in our dressing room. Men with personality. Those who don’t give up. Those who don’t give up,” he said.
“When we step onto that pitch, we have to write the story. It’s not a story told outside our dressing room. We pick up the pen as soon as we step on the pitch and start writing.”