Success on and off the field: Matt Black’s Story
Success. What does that word really mean? The dictionary defines success as, “the favourable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours; the accomplishment of one’s goals.”
For professional CFL player Matt Black, success means, “living up to your own individual potential.”
Black’s playing career has been littered with success; as the current Toronto Argonaut has won two Grey Cup Championships with his hometown team.
Black was responsible for the game winning interception in this year’s Grey Cup Championship, but while his career has had plenty of success, he’s also experienced some hardship.
The first real challenge for Black came all the way back in grade 2. While most kids were learning to adapt to this new thing called school, Black was trying to adapt to being diagnosed with dyslexia.
“Over-coming dyslexia, for me was the hardest challenge,” he said. “Learning to cope with it and finding coping mechanisms has taught me there’s no challenge you can’t overcome.”
Being diagnosed with dyslexia at such a young age was never going to be easy for Black. For the rest of his educational career he knew he was going to have to put in more work than anyone else to take the next step in his life, playing professional football.
“I knew I wanted to play football but I also knew I had to achieve certain grades to help me achieve my goal,” Black said.
Being under-sized, Canadian and dyslexic didn’t bode well for Black, but hard work, dedication and support helped him overcome his struggles.
“The catalyst for me has always been to give everything I have,” Black said. “My high-school coach said once that there’s always someone who’s going to be better, so I’ve used that to push myself.”
Black’s hard work took him to Saginaw Valley State where he spent four years playing as a starter, as well as earning a degree and getting selected by his hometown of Toronto to play in the CFL.
In the nine years following his debut in the league, Black has played in 120 games for the Toronto Argonauts, as well as winning a Grey Cup, starting a family and being front and centre in giving back to the community.
It’s no question that heading into the new season, his career has been a success. But just as things were looking up, Black was hit with another challenge.
After getting injured in August, 2017, during training camp, Black was released by the Argos. The news was shocking for many around the league, but not for Black.
Being one of the older players on the team, adapting to a new coaching system and also being injured made Black to be an expendable piece. Born and raised in Toronto, “I kind of saw it coming,” Black said. “Didn’t want it to happen but it did.”
For the next six days, Black didn’t know what was to come. He didn’t know where his life was going to take him.“It was like a surreal time,” Black said. “Everyone knew I was released and I thought ‘Is this the end for football and how my career’s going to end?’”
All he knew was that he had to keep fighting because that’s all he’s ever known. “I thought to myself ‘There’s no way I can go out like this and I know I can do this and I needed to find my opportunity’,” Black said.
Then his moment came, with the team he least expected. “I thought my time in Toronto was done, but within the week of me being released it was a whirlwind and I was back in Toronto and I didn’t think twice about coming back,” he said.
Black was re-signed by Toronto after an injury to the defensive unit. From there, he would go on to start in 10 games during the regular season, playing arguably some of the best football in his career.
“There a lot of people on this team who have gone through some really hard times, and I feel that this motivated us and brought us all closer together and it helped us throughout the season,” he said.
The stage was now set for Black and the Argos to put a cherry atop their season, in the Grey Cup final in Ottawa.
Going up against the Calgary Stampeders, deemed the favourites after posting the best regular season record, the Toronto Argos were understandably seen as the underdogs.
With Calgary leading 24-16 late in the fourth, it looked as though the underdogs were out. But then, out of nowhere, came a moment of brilliance.
The Argos recovered a fumble near their own goal-line and returned it 109 yards for a touchdown. Add in a successful two-point conversion, the game was tied at 24.
Later in the quarter the Argo’s converted a field-goal to take the lead, 27-24. Going into the last seconds of the game, with Calgary looking for a miracle, the moment came for Matt.
“I was reading the routes and took a quick peak back at the quarterback and saw he was looking to the field then something just told me he’s throwing the ball there,” said Black.
It was at that moment Black knew that Calgary were going for it and his instincts took over. What happened next is considered the greatest play in Argo’s history.
“As I was closing in I looked back and saw the ball in the air and in that moment I knew I had a chance at it,” Black said.
Coming up with the interception to seal the win for the Argos, Black had his moment of validation.
After a crazy season, it was only fitting that Black would be the one to seal the win for the Argos. While this added another championship to his name, the real success for Black was helping his team-mates.
“This season wasn’t so much about the personal success, but helping guys achieving something they haven’t,” Black said.
He also adds that “seeing the look on their faces and the feeling of accomplishment is something I’m always going to remember from this season.”
Being a professional football player who has won two championships would be the pinnacle of success for many people in his position but for Black, his career comes in second to what he calls his greatest success in life.
“Being a father is the thing I’m most proud of,” Black said. “That’s your true legacy, the way you raise your kids is a true testament to your legacy.”
All throughout his life Black worked hard and has dedicated his success to the people that have been there for him.
“This isn’t just about me, you don’t realize how many people you’re affecting,” he said. “There’s a lot of people watching me and who have supported me from the start.”
Success can come in all forms. Success is meant to be something that is attainable for everyone, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and dedication.
“No matter what happens, people can never take away your success regardless of what it is,” Black said. “The only thing is that you have to find that thing that inspires you and give everything you got.”