London, Ont. – This weekend, the Western Mustangs are storming their way into the Vanier Cup and, in a rematch of last year's U SPORTS final, will take on the Laval Rouge et Or. In order to repeat as champions and come out on top once again, the Mustangs will be expecting a lot out of veteran running back Cedric Joseph – but the role he is taking on is nothing new.
Following in his father's footsteps, Joseph, a Montreal native, has been a leader for Western on and off the field all season long. On the field, he led the OUA in yards (with 965), yards per game (with 120.6), and touchdowns (with 12) in the regular season. Off the field, he guided his younger teammates through their paces and helped to steer them in the right direction – both on and off the field – while also finding new ways to be a team player, regularly demonstrating his hard work. All of this combined to cement Joseph's legacy, one that will last long after he has graduated – guaranteeing that this Mustangs program continues to grow and flourish.
After a fairytale ending to the 2017-2018 season, in which he was named the Dalt White Trophy winner as the Yates Cup MVP, Joseph didn't settle and take the offseason off. Knowing that he would be relied upon to lead Western when the OUA season kicked off once again, he worked to improve every single facet of his game. He worked alone on the field and in the gym, he worked with his coaches and teammates, but, more than anything, he "trusted in the process". He is a believer in hard work paying off, so when it came down to it, he made sure he consistently showed up and worked hard, knowing that everything else would fall into place.
And fall into place it did. Case in point his 355-yard rushing performance – an OUA record-breaking effort for a single game – when the Mustangs faced the Windsor Lancers last month. Certainly, all of the aforementioned hard work allowed Joseph to turn out such a stellar performance, but when asked to tell us about that game, he took no personal credit. Instead, he highlighted the performances of the offensive line and the Mustangs wide receivers, stating that "when everyone is playing as excellent as they were that game, it's pretty easy for running backs like myself to run around the field and do what I did." While Joseph may believe it's easy to do what he did, football fans know that a performance like that is anything but run-of-the-mill.
While Joseph has left his mark on the Western and OUA record books, his legacy isn't complete yet. The Mustangs are undefeated this season, but have their toughest opponent looming in their quest to repeat and win the 54th Vanier Cup. But this isn't the first time they've found themselves face-to-face with the Rouge et Or. In fact, the Mustangs defeated Laval in last year's 53rd Vanier Cup, a victory that came after back-to-back Yates Cup disappointments in Joseph's first two seasons.
Western's football program has always been a force in the league, but after back-to-back defeats in the conference finals, the Mustangs found themselves regrouping, relying upon the leadership of Joseph and other vets to find a way to overcome. It was during a meeting in the offseason two years ago that this veteran core decided they were "over making it to these games and not pulling through," and they've been unstoppable ever since.
Whether you believe they're back in the national championship game because of their belief in themselves and their growing confidence, the constant hard work and impressive effort that they put in every single day, or (more than likely) a combination of both, the 2018-2019 Mustangs won't be satisfied with anything other than a stellar performance this weekend. And regardless of the game's outcome, we know that the first-team OUA all-star and U SPORTS All-Canadian will leave it all on the field to even further cement his place in the purple and white folklore.