Playing another year could’ve been easy for Rob Cote.
At age 31, the Calgary Stampeders fullback was more than strong and fast enough to continue playing offence and special teams for the only CFL team he’s ever known. Especially one expected to be in the hunt for yet another championship.
But in his mind, Cote came to the realization he wouldn’t be giving the game its due.
“It’s hard for me to give the respect to the Week 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 games,” Cote said Tuesday after announcing his retirement after 11 seasons with Calgary. “It’s hard for me to give the respect those games demand and they deserve.
“Young guys are excited to give it that respect. I could show up for the playoffs for the next 10 years, but that’s not what it’s about, and that’s what it means to me to know it’s time to move on.”
The six-foot-one, 227-pound Cote appeared in 179 career regular-season games, tying him for eighth in franchise history. He also played in 12 West Division finals and four Grey Cups, winning twice.
He spent six seasons as a team captain and twice was voted by his teammates as the winner of the Presidents’ Ring for excellence on and off the field.
Over his career, which Cote began as a 20-year-old after starring in the junior football ranks, he registered 113 receptions for 1,160 yards and 13 touchdowns. But the Cochrane, Alta., native’s value was measured by much more than just numbers as Calgary never missed the playoffs during Cote’s tenure, posting a 146-66-4 record over that span.
He also helped six Calgary running backs claim CFL rushing titles.
“He wasn’t just a glue guy,” said former teammate Jon Cornish, one of three players to earn the league’s outstanding player award while sharing a backfield with Cote. “I would call him reinforcement in the concrete.
“He’s the steel pole going through the entire team, holding it all together. For me, he was the team. As long as he was on the team, I thought we’d have consistent leadership. After we won in 2014, a lot of guys on the team for a long time left, and Rob stayed and he was able to share with the new guys and maintain the Stampeder tradition.”
Stampeders president/GM John Hufnagel called it a bittersweet day. He was happy to see a player leave the game on his own accord but knows his team has a big hole to fill.
“Rob was such a versatile player,” Hufnagel said. “Obviously he was our starting fullback, but he was also our backup running back, our backup receiver.
“He was able to do that because of his high football intelligence. We counted on Rob, and maybe even took advantage of Rob having that security blanket on the football team.”
Off the field, Cote served as a representative for Hospice Calgary. In 2013, he received the Herm Harrison Memorial Award for community service.
His future now includes more time with his family – Cote and his wife, Natalie, have two young sons, Miller and Wynn – and a job with the Calgary Construction Association.
Cote said he has more than a decade of memories, even if most of them include others receiving the glory.
“I started 20 years old, scored a touchdown, got Canadian player of the week and this is the most media I’ve had since that day,” he said with a laugh. “For many guys, unfortunately, this is the pinnacle, the career they’ve had, and then it’s a tough transition.
“But I’m very excited because I feel everything I’ve done has led me to this point and I’m happy and excited to get started with the rest of my life.”