June 12th, 2024

Safety Katsantonis making most of his chance with Ticats

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on October 26, 2023.

HAMILTON – Stavros Katsantonis has certainly made the most of his opportunity this season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The five-foot-10, 188-pound safety began the year backing up compatriot Tunde Adeleke but became the starter July 18 when Adeleke was injured. Katsantonis has become a fixture in Hamilton’s secondary ever since.

On Wednesday, the former University of British Columbia star was a unanimous selection as Hamilton’s nominee for the CFL’s top Canadian award.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Katsantonis said Thursday. “This team drafted me for a reason, they saw something and it’s just executing what they saw and following through on that on my part.

“Football is a game where guys can go down on any play so it’s the old saying that you’re always one play away from being a starter. We’ve got many guys that are just prepared each week to be the starter.”

Katsantonis has appeared in all of Hamilton’s 17 regular-season games this year. He has 54 tackles, two special-teams tackles, five interceptions and two sacks.

Heady stuff considering Katsantonis entered the ’23 campaign having not recorded either an interception or sack over his first two CFL seasons. Last year, he recorded a team-high 20 special-teams tackles.

But even when Adeleke returned, Katsantonis remained at safety while Adeleke was shifted to halfback. Katsantonis said patience and continually believing in the process were keys to becoming a starter.

“I think at any level patience is a key thing,” he said. “Just being able to know things are going to work out, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, especially in this league where it’s different from university.

“For me, a lot of it was understanding my time was coming “¦ it was knowing good things were going to come and just trusting my work ethic, my play on the field.”

However, before he could trust the process, Katsantonis had to understand patience.

“It’s definitely a learned trait,” he said with a chuckle. “As a kid I wanted things to happen now and it’s definitely something I’ve grown into.

“I think that’s just adulting at the end of the day “¦ patience has been a huge thing for me and it has paid off this year.”

Katsantonis is a 27-year-old California native who has dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship. Hamilton selected him in the fourth round of the 2020 CFL draft.

“It’s definitely an honour to be represented as a Canadian,” he said. “I know it’s a little bit different for me just being born and raised in the States but I’m still proud to wear that Maple Leaf.

“Canada has held a special place in my heart since I came up here in 2015 (to start collegiate career). I’m just going out to prove Canadians can play and hang with the best.”

Katsantonis was a first team all-Canadian at safety three times at UBC. And he began his college career with a bang, earning top defensive player honours in the Thunderbirds’ 26-23 Vanier Cup win over Montreal.

But Katsantonis began his CFL tenure in 2021 as the league didn’t operate in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

“He has always been faithful to what he’s been given,” said Orlondo Steinauer, Hamilton’s head coach/president of football operations. “I can just say that you talk about being ready for your opportunity when it presents itself and then when it comes do you seize that moment?

“That’s what he has done. I’m not really surprised because I see the work he puts in.”

Steinauer added Katsantonis has earned the right to remain in Hamilton’s starting lineup.

“He’s absolutely one of our main starters now,” Steinauer said. “He’s one of those key cogs that we’re going to need as a piece down the stretch.”

Katsantonis said working to remain a starter is as difficult as fighting for the No. 1 job.

“The moment you show up thinking it’s going to be easy is the moment where you’re probably going to get the boot at some point,” he said. “When you get in, I think it’s just as hard to keep it as it was to get the position in the first place.

“The level of preparation can always be more, there’s always one more thing you can do. When you can learn that and there’s always a little bit more you can give, I think you set yourself up to be in a pretty good spot.”

Hamilton (8-9) concludes its regular season visiting the Montreal Alouettes (10-7) on Saturday. The contest has no playoff implications but remains interesting because the two teams will return to Molson Stadium on Nov. 4 for the East Division semifinal.

“Each week we prepare the same,” Katsantonis said. “At the end of the day we’re going out there to represent those who came before us and play smash-mouth football and do what we do out there.

“It’s definitely not a take the day off game. They need to bring their lunch pails, for sure, because we’re not holding anything back.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2023.

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