“I’m just reaping the results, hard work, works.” Darnell Sankey enjoys successful first season with Saskatchewan as he sets new tackles record


There have been plenty of tackling machines that have roamed the sidelines for the Saskatchewan Roughriders after David Albright established a franchise record in 1987 with 118 tackles.

Eddie Lowe provided many memorable collisions during his five seasons in Saskatchewan, including “The Hit” on Edmonton QB Tracy Ham in the 1989 Western Semi-Final.

Barrin Simpson and Solomon Elimimian were a pair of linebackers who enjoyed successful years  in the back end of their careers wearing green and white.

A pair of dependable tacklers for the Roughriders in the 2000s were Reggie Hunt and Sean Lucas.

And after starring in Saskatchewan, Jerrell Freeman and Sam Eguavoen would parlay their success in the CFL into careers in the National Football League.

Despite all of those legendary defenders who have played in front of Rider nation over the last three-plus decades, it was Darnell Sankey who established a new single season franchise record for tackles in his first season in Saskatchewan.

One of the bright spots of a disappointing season for the Roughriders, the linebacker ended the year with 120 tackles, after finishing with five against the Stampeders in the season finale on Saturday.

As the Sacramento State product and the rest of his teammates cleaned out their lockers on Sunday, he said that the tackling feat wasn’t a surprise to him.

“I feel like it’s kind of expected, I feel like I put in the work for it, I’m just reaping the results, hard work, works.”

Another milestone Sankey shared with his teammate Larry Dean this season was that the Saskatchewan linebackers became only the second pair of teammates to record a 100 tackles in the same season. He says the five year CFL veteran was a valuable addition off the field.

“He’s a great leader, he’s a great leader first and foremost he’s a great person, we’ve had a lot of great talks, we’ve had a lot of great conservations with one another, just man to man, aside of football.” Sankey added that he was proud of the way Dean was able to comeback from the torn Achilles that he suffered on the opening day of training camp in 2021.

The two teammates were also able to be a pair of mainstays in Saskatchewan’s lineup this season, as they both played in all 18 regular season games. That accomplishment should be classified as impressive considering the Roughriders battled a pair of team wide illnesses  with a COVID-19 outbreak in July, along with team wide stomach flu in September.

For his efforts in his first season with the Roughriders, the former Stampeder was honoured by the team as he received the team’s nominees for Most Outstanding Player along with the Team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year.

The linebacker didn’t receive the same recognition from a league wide perspective, Calgary defensive end, Shawn Lemon was named the CFL’s Western Division nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player earlier this week. Lemon finished second in the league with 14 sacks over 17 games.

On Wednesday, Sankey was delivered with another snub as he was not named an CFL Western Division All-Star. Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill.

Anyone with green and white affiliation will likely find the snubs disappointing for the 28 year old, but there’s a good chance that Sankey will likely do his best to turn this negative into a positive.

He says the prior adversity that he has faced, has prepared for him the challenges that he encounters.

“It’s nothing new to me, I’ve always said, you just got to keep head down and keep working.” It’s also important to be consistent with your values says Sankey.

“I feel like everybody hits adversity different and everybody goes through it differently, if you stick to what you know, and what you know is to be true, then I mean, I feel like it’s easy.”

With a boatload of free agents heading to the offseason, fresh off a 6-12 record, there is expected to be plenty of changes with the Saskatchewan Roughriders roster, especially with the team electing to keep head coach Craig Dickenson and general manager Jeremy O’Day for the 2023 season.

Even though with a series of questions facing the Roughriders.

The only question you would think that management should have when it comes to signing the popular linebacker is, how much?

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