November 16, 2023

Mathieu Betts | From Humble Beginnings To CFL Award Winner

He sat down for this interview fully decked out in his ‘Canadian Tuxedo.’ That’s all you need to know about Mathieu Betts. Funny and quirky, yet at the same time, a little shy and not one to puff his chest at his accomplishments. Basically, the antithesis of someone who had made Canadian Football League history less than four weeks prior.

On Thursday night in Niagara Falls, Betts was announced as the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player, putting a nice bow on the best season of his career to date. While it’s not the trophy he was initially chasing this week in Hamilton, the 28-year-old native of Montreal can still view it as a huge indicator of how far he has come from his days playing youth football in his hometown. Even if he won’t be suiting up in Sunday’s 110th Grey Cup

“I’ve never really dreamed or envisioned myself playing in the CFL but I thought it was pretty cool to see all these big guys on the field and be recognized as one of the best in the league. That’s really cool and humbling, for sure,” Betts said on winning the award.

He is now in the same class as Lion legends of the past: James ‘Quick’ Parker, Brent Johnson, Cameron Wake, Solomon Eliminian, and Adam Bighill are just a few examples of previous Leos to win Most Outstanding Defensive Player. It was Johnson’s Canadian sack record (matched by Winnipeg’s Jamaal Westerman a few years later) that Betts broke in the final regular season game of 2023, getting to Calgary’s Jake Maier for his 18th quarterback takedown.

The son and grandson of educators in Montreal, Mathieu Betts breaks down his big journey to becoming CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Mathieu Betts and David Mackie pose with their Canadian Tuxedoes alongside Dom Rhymes as the team boards a charter flight to Toronto on Canada Day Weekend of 2023. Photo: Steven Chang, BC Lions.

In the midst of battle throughout this past season, Betts did his best to try to downplay his pursuit of history. Just another example of his humble nature,

Once he got in the habit of being asked about Johnson on a consistent basis, he took it upon himself to dig up some footage of Johnson terrorizing quarterbacks in his playing days. Growing up in Montreal, Betts was a diehard Alouettes fan with his boyhood idol being none other than his current defensive line coach, John Bowman. Now that he holds the Canadian sack record, he definitely appreciates Johnson and many of the Lion greats who came before him.

The son and grandson of educators in Montreal, Mathieu Betts breaks down his big journey to becoming CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Mathieu Betts makes history, taking down Calgary’s Jake Maier for his 18th quarterback sack on October 20. Photo credit: Paul Yates, BC Lions.

“Every time we walk around these halls, we see pictures of Brent. He has his jersey retired here, so we definitely understand and respect his impact on this franchise. So, it’s really cool to get these comparisons,” Betts explained.

“The record, I tried to downplay that because it was all about focusing on the task ahead, not about jinxing it. I wanted to stay locked in all season and put in work every week. It became more important to me when my teammates started talking about it. We were in Hamilton (October  13) when I was stuck on 16 and one away from tying it. I started to realize at that time it meant a lot to my teammates as well.”

WATCH: Mathieu Betts: The Quarterback Nightmare 

Humble Betts Credits His Family Supporters

Perhaps one of the reasons Betts never envisioned becoming a CFL star was his motivation to follow in the footsteps of his family. His parents, Cynthia and Martin Betts are both high school counselors. Mathieu also counts his maternal grandparents, Serge and Andree Cloutier who also worked as educators as major influences on his journey.

In fact, when a member of the Winnipeg media asked him if Betts blowing kisses during a week three victory over the Bombers was directed at their crowd, Betts quickly pointed out he was acknowledging his grandparents back home in Montreal.

“My grandfather reads every article possible on the CFL,” Betts proclaims.

“He’s always texting me and calling me about all of our games. It’s fun to do it for all of the people who have supported you along the way. Whether it was football, hockey or anything I played, them and my parents were always supportive and they still are.”

Football also proved to be a path to meeting the love of his life, Camille Dalcourt. The couple met ten years ago at a charity event for the high school football team at Cégep du Vieux Montréal. They have been together through Betts’ time with the Laval Rouge et Or- where he won Vanier Cups in 2016 and 2018-, in Edmonton from 2019-21, and now with the Lions who snapped him up early in 2022 free agency after the Elks elected to not bring him back into the fold.

The couple will tie the knot in January, not too long before Betts is once again eligible to become a free agent. Promising news for Lions fans? Mathieu says Camille has become a West Coast girl at heart.

“She loves flying in for the games and discovering some of the great spots around this province. We went to the Okanagan during one bye week and both loved it there,” Betts explained.

“Camille has definitely been a big part of this, taking time away from her own family during the season, adapting her work to be on Pacific time. We both love it here, for sure.”

Accepting the award and reflecting on support from loved ones is indeed a solid way to wrap up a solid season. Once the offseason program kicks off next week, it’s all about focussing on the chance to play football during next year’s Grey Cup festivities in Vancouver.

“The main focus is going to be the chance to win that Grey Cup. Regardless of what happened this year, it’s still what we would have wanted next year. When you put in the work, I truly believe good things will come to you.”

And who knows? Maybe his picture will one day be in the hallway along with Johnson and those other Lion legends.

Matt Baker: