Riders’ Darnell Sankey: ‘It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be a good person’

On and off the field, linebacker Darnell Sankey has been outstanding during his first season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Darnell Sankey initially signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders because of the college-like atmosphere at Mosaic Stadium and an opportunity to participate in the CFL playoffs.

The playoffs? Not so much.

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The Riders (6-11) have been eliminated from the post-season picture with Saturday’s meaningless game (6 p.m., TSN) against the Stampeders (11-6) left on the schedule.

Sankey signed a one-year free-agent deal on Feb. 8. He joined the Riders after leading the CFL in defensive tackles (97) and being named a West Division all-star with Calgary in 2021.

Heading into the season finale, he leads the CFL in defensive tackles (115) in 17 games. He is three tackles shy of the Riders’ single-season record of 118, set by Dave Albright in 1987.

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“It’s impressive and there isn’t any doubt about it,” Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said. “The other thing that is impressive is he has stayed healthy. A lot of these records have as much to do with their ability to stay healthy and being able to play every game. He has been very productive in every game this year.”

Sankey is a long-shot for the most-outstanding-player award due to the performances of quarterbacks Zach Collaros (Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and Nathan Rourke (B.C. Lions) and running back Ka’Deem Carey (Calgary).

“I shouldn’t have to say anything because the only thing that I need to say is on film,” Sankey said about catching the voters’ attention. “You can pull up the film and see who you think deserves it.”

Sankey has come a long way since starring with the Sacramento State University Hornets. He was bypassed in the 2016 NFL draft, leading to a nomadic journey.

He signed with the Denver Broncos in 2016 before spending time with the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts (two stints), Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints.

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He dressed for six games with the Colts in 2017. The Saints released him in 2019 and he joined Calgary two years later.

“It’s an underdog mentality and I’ve always felt like I was overlooked, especially when you’re an undrafted player because you’re always climbing the ladder,” Sankey said of his NFL journey. “There are some guys that I really believe start on top. Then they have to get knocked off by guys like me, who were brought in as a camp body.”

There is more than football to Sankey. He recently teamed with the Mâmawêyatitân Centre to help feed the city’s homeless. He then gathered donations of oranges, bananas, apples, tissue, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other household items to hand out at a barbecue.

Approximately 900 people had a hot meal. As well, 275 grocery bags filled with essentials and food were given out.

“I’m not just an athlete and we’re not just here just to play football,” Sankey said. “We want to impact the community, impact lives, and just do well.

“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be a good person.”

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