OTTAWA — Joe West, speaking with tear-filled eyes and slumped shoulders, found the strength to talk about a horrific loss.
Just hours before the Stampeders were to take on the Ottawa RedBlacks, Calgary’s wide receiver received the devastating news that his younger brother had been murdered.
Brandon Hobdy, 24, was a senior wide receiver for the SAU Muleriders football team.
As news of the tragedy spread amongst the Stampeders their only thought was their teammate’s well-being.
“I think the coaches told him not to play,” said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. “We met him up in his room and told him, ’Man you do not need to play and if you want to fly home right now we’ll do whatever it takes to get you home. Dude you do not need to play,’ but he said he wanted to play for Brandon and hats off to Joe for wanting to do something like that.”
West not only played Sunday, he was a significant factor in the Stampeders’ 32-7 victory over the RedBlacks with four catches for 129 yards. After the game West said he considered not playing but knew his brother would have wanted him on the field — Hobdy loved watching him play.
“I just couldn’t do it without my teammates,” said West. “It was hard, but it was a challenge and every challenge brings change so I just accepted it. I knew I had brothers on my side on the field and we pulled out the win. We got it.”
There was no denying the Stampeders were determined to get the win for West, but it was clear today’s performance was more about honouring a loved one for West.
“It’s not what it means to me, it’s what it means to the team, the organization,” said West. “I just came out and tried to contribute and do the best I could and that’s it.”
Teammates were moved by West’s determination.
“For somebody to have the most selfless act I’ve ever seen is unbelievable,” said Mitchell. “For Joe to come out and play like that and not only that, to play the way he did, if it was myself I don’t know what I would have done. I have three brothers and I just don’t know how he did it. It just attributes how great of an athlete he is and person he is, but he knows we’re a family here and we’re always going to stay a family.”
Mitchell finished the game 16 for 29 passing for 266 yards. The Stampeders win improved Calgary’s record to 7-1.
Sunday’s game also marked the return of star running back Jon Cornish, who had missed the past six games due to a concussion.
Cornish finished the game 16 for 74 on the ground and 2 for 10 through the air.
“It was nice (to get back in there),” said Cornish. “I felt like I was playing a little bit faster than the game off the bat. Not necessarily jittery, but not patient like I normally am, but then I settled in so it was good.”
The RedBlacks (1-7) meanwhile suffered their fifth straight loss.
The Stampeders held an 8-7 halftime lead, but it was back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.
“It got away from us,” said Ottawa coach Rick Campbell. “I thought our defence and special teams were doing a ton of good things on the field and I don’t think the score is reflective of the way our defence played and I give Calgary credit. They’re a good football team.”
Sederrik Cunningham ran in a 20-yard touchdown to make it 18-7 with 6:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Less than two minutes later Cunningham had a 66-yard punt return to give Calgary a 25-7 lead.
Hugh Charles also ran in a 15-yard touchdown late in the fourth to make it 32-7. The RedBlacks have been outscored in the fourth quarter in seven-of-eight games this season.
Burris did not have his best game, going 12 for 23 for 113 yards, and it’s clear frustration is setting in.
“I’m tired of getting together after games and talking about the same things as far as us not doing little things here and there and then biting ourselves with mistakes and stuff like that and it’s stuff that’s got to stop at some point because as an offence we’re killing ourselves in every different way,” said Burris.