The Henoc Muamba Story

The Henoc Muamba Story: Football, Faith and Friendship Part 1

In Articles, Family, Sports by Carter Brooks

The 2023 Canadian Football League season is now fully upon us, and with it brings many storylines. But none will be greater than the Toronto Argonauts’ continued pursuit of dominance stemming back to their 2022 Grey Cup championship.

Once again leading the charge for the Argos is 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker Henoc Muamba. Long serving as a CFL mainstay, the former 2011 first overall pick made the championship game-changing interception last winter, but it took 11 full years for the now 34-year-old to earn his first Grey Cup ring.

Impactus’ Resident Sports Writer, Carter Brooks was granted an exclusive hour-long, one-on-one interview with the reigning Grey Cup MVP and Most Outstanding Canadian, and the conversation did not disappoint. That interview has become the backbone of this piece. Muamba’s story is broken up into four parts, which will be released over the next two months as the CFL season kicks into high gear.

Tell me the story of young Henoc. Where did you grow up?

“I was born in the Congo and lived there for my first six years or so. I am the second of three boys. My parents decided to immigrate, so we left the Congo and we immigrated to Canada. We initially lived in Montreal, Quebec, but after a few years there we moved to Mississauga, Ontario. I bounced around for a little bit but yes, ultimately settled in Mississauga. From there I went to university where I played football and later found myself in good ol’ Winterpeg.” 

What got you interested in football? When did that happen?

“It was amazing – I told people that going to St. Francis Xavier, I didn’t even think I would be playing football at the next level. I played all kinds of sports as a kid. I played volleyball, basketball, soccer, you name it… I did play football, yes, but it really wasn’t until my high school basketball coaches (who also coached football) came to me and said that I should try out football. In high school I finally started to listen to him. We still have a really good relationship to this day, really. I brought the Grey Cup back to that high school the other day. He’s just one of those guys in my life who I have a lot of love and respect for. He just said to me, “why don’t you try out?” I did, and the rest is really just history now.” 

“I didn’t really love the game, initially. I was a huge basketball guy, if we’re being completely honest here, Carter. I just played football because I wanted to try it out. I saw some success with it, but really didn’t love it all that much. I didn’t really understand it either. I kept playing though, and here we are. I really wasn’t planning on playing football at the university level though. But sure enough, I played a little bit more in high school and started getting some attention locally. One of the visits I had was from St. FX. My old coach from high school Gary Waterman got a promotion to St. FX, so I knew him, and when I went out there, it was so far from home, but it really felt like home, if that makes sense. So, I committed to going there.”

What was university football like? How was your experience?

“My first year there, I still didn’t know the game all that well. Everyone was much older than me. But I surrounded myself with some good company, some older players who taught me the importance of good work ethic, hard work and discipline. It was new level, a higher level for me. I didn’t know enough about the game to be impactful in my first year.” 

“One of the things that was extremely pivotal for me at the end of my first year, I remember my head coach at the time said to me, “Henoc, I’m going to build the team around you.” I looked back at him, and I was distraught, but I also didn’t know what he was talking about, or why he wanted to do that. But clearly, he saw something in me that even I couldn’t see for myself. Sure enough, I would ask around or tell my roommates about what that conversation was like. They weren’t surprised at all. So that offseason was the first time that I really started to work hard and train the way you’re supposed to before a season in order to be successful. I remember going above and beyond of what was asked of me, of course with the guidance and help of my older roommates.

From my second year on, I started to see the results of my work. I think I was an all-star in my second year, was nominated for best defensive player in the country, every other year after that second year, I would only work harder in the off-seasons and continue to reap the benefits of those. Up until that last year where I would continue to grow as a man, as a leader and as a football leader. The last year I got all the accolades at the end, and finally won the top defensive player in the country, ultimately it did help me to get drafted first overall after going through the CFL combine.”

What was it like being chosen No. 1 at the CFL Draft?

Henoc Muamba taken first overall by Bombers“I get drafted first overall; it was an amazing experience. My family was flown in by a private jet and they put us in the presidential suite. We all stayed together the night before the draft, so I was there in-person for the draft, which is not typically how it’s done in the CFL. I was extremely gracious for that. So, I got drafted, but then my mind immediately went to, okay, now I’ve got to prove them right. I need to prove to them that the made the right decision by picking me first overall. I was never allergic to hard work, I’d seen the benefits of it, and this new level wasn’t going to be an exception. One of the things that helped me tremendously there was leaning on my faith. By that point I knew that I had the skill to be great, I knew that I had the talent to be in a professional setting in a professional world. Not a lot of people know this, but my agent was working on a few options for me to go straight to the NFL. But if anybody remembers, at that time it was the NFL lockout, so I didn’t get a chance to go to the NFL. But I was grateful enough to come to the CFL, be drafted first overall and be in Winnipeg and learn from the best.”

Carter Brooks
Carter Brooks is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, coaching hockey is his favorite pastime.
Carter Brooks
Carter Brooks is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, coaching hockey is his favorite pastime.