Cody Fajardo celebrates with the Grey Cup. Nov 19, 2023; Hamilton, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo (7) lifts the Grey Cup trophy after the Alouettes defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bomber at Tim Hortons Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a common mantra of teams using “No one believed in us” as motivation, but many of those teams were far from underdogs. That wasn’t the case for the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes heading into either the 2023 CFL season or into the Grey Cup playoffs, though. Even in that title game Sunday, the Alouettes were seven-point underdogs against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were appearing in their fourth-straight Grey Cup.

But Montreal came up with a 28-24 last-second win off a pass from Cody Fajardo to Tyson Philpot. And in the wake of that win, many players spoke about the impact of a fiery speech from Fajardo the day before.

Well, a couple days after the game, the Alouettes tweeted out the video of that pregame speech after getting more than a thousand likes for a post on Fajardo’s selection as Grey Cup MVP. And the speech is as amazing as the descriptions made it sound. There, Fajardo talks about the motivation he got from preseason rankings that had the Als ninth out of nine CFL teams and then repeated doubting of them throughout the year:

“When I signed here, it was crazy, because I remember the first polls, or the preseason rankings that came out. Where’d they have us?” “Ninth.” “And I remember being at home and staring at it, and I was like ‘All right.’ And I said [slams table], ‘F*** you! Just watch!’ That’s what I said.”

“When we lost four straight, and they said ‘You guys won’t have a winning record,’ I said ‘F*** you! Just watch!’ When they said ‘You guys aren’t going to host a playoff game,’ I said ‘F*** you! Just watch!'”

“‘You’re not going to beat a 16-2 Argos team!’ ‘F*** you! Just watch!’ ‘You ain’t going to beat a Winnipeg team! Cody, you’re 0-9 against Zach Collaros!’ You know what I say? ‘F*** you! Just watch!'”

“And that’s what I’m going to bring tomorrow. I’m going to give it everything I got. Just like I know every one of you guys is going to give it everything you’ve got.”

“Win or lose, I love you guys. It is so much better when you win a Cup, the bonds that you build are so much better. But all I’ve got to say is to the one percent in this room. F*** you, just watch to everybody else.”

What makes this effective rather than just theatrics is that very few did actually believe in the Als. And that’s for good reason. That team was coming off a 9-9 regular-season in 2022, complete with the midseason firing of head coach Khari Jones and with general manager Danny Maciocia stepping in on an interim basis. And while they made it to the East Final in 2022, they fell 34-27 to the eventual Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts there.

And the Montreal offseason didn’t inspire many at first. The team faced significant offseason change, including the hiring of Jason Maas as head coach in December, the ownership group (Gary Stern and the estate of Sid Spiegel) returning the team to the league in February before they were sold to Pierre Karl Péladeau in April, and team president Mario Cecchini briefly leaving after his contract was terminated by the old owners before the league brought him back (he eventually left to run the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Mark Weightman took over). They also lost several prominent free agents in February around all that ownership turmoil, and many weren’t impressed with their biggest free agent signing, bringing in Fajardo from the Saskatchewan Roughriders (where Maas had been the offensive coordinator).

Meanwhile, even while Montreal put up an 11-7 season, they were regularly downplayed in favor of the Argos (who tied a CFL regular-season record with 16 wins). But the Alouettes came through with a 27-12 home win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Semi-Final, then a 38-17 road win over Toronto in the Eastern Final.

The Alouettes were still written off by many going into this Grey Cup, though, including even the TSN programming guide (as safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy noted in a post-game rant about the league paying just lip service to bilingualism and the one team in Quebec). And Fajardo (who was named Grey Cup MVP after completing 21 of 26 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns with one interception) talked about that after the game as well:

But as Fajardo’s speeches showed, they sure used that for motivation. And that led to an epic Grey Cup parade Wednesday:

And even the team referenced his speech in one of their posts from the parade:

Just watch indeed. Apparently, the Alouettes weren’t the right team to write off.

[CFL FanNation on Sports Illustrated]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.