Unsung hero Rob Cote steps away

Every team has one; the guy who is instantly recognizable to fans of the team but could walk completely anonymously in any other CFL city. The guy you think of as your team’s secret weapon. He’s never in the paper, he isn’t a TSN graphic but more than others, he helps your team win.

Here in Calgary, that spot will need to be filled following the retirement of 11 year veteran Rob Cote.

Cote was a versatile every-man for the Stampeders over the years, returning kicks, running the ball, and catching passes out of the backfield. This particular fan was shocked to find out that in 179 career games, good enough to tie for eighth all-time in Calgary, he only touched the ball a total of 164 times amassing 1,410 all-purpose yards with 13 TD’s. That’s because nearly every time he touched the ball, there was an impact.

A two time President’s Ring winner, voted on by the players to recognize excellence on the field, in combination with leadership, inspiration, and, motivation off it, Cote’s leadership stepped to the fore as his career wore on.

“You can’t measure the impact he has had on this organization,” says Stampeder punter Rob Maver adding Cote’s leadership isn’t easily replaced. “It’s going to have to be picking it up by committee, who else brings 10 years experience as a captain, with all the things he does? Plus he is a full-time starter on offense and will play (special teams) in the playoffs if we need him. You can’t replace that guy….it’s not possible.”

Cote was a little more optimistic, however. “The beautiful thing about the football locker room is that there will be new and great leaders, much better leaders than myself, that are going to come up and fill the shoes.”

Saying that naming names as replacements specifically would diminish the efforts of teammates he neglected to mention, he pointed out how Calgary “is lucky to have someone like Bo Levi Mitchell at the helm. He’s a great guy in the locker room, in the community and he throws the ball alright too.”

Maver was one of many teammates to attend Cote’s retirement announcement with those out of town weighing in on social media. Stampeders receiver Marquay McDaniel tweeted “He did all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. A true professional, team first player, and all around good guy.”

Former teammate and current Saskatchewan Roughrider Derek Dennis called him “Without a doubt one of the most humble, professional, team oriented, classiest, hard working dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure to strap it up with.”

In every interaction with Cote, it is the humble that stands out. “If I’m the leading rusher on the day, we’ve had a bad day,” he told me once after a game that saw him pressed into action following injuries to tailbacks ahead of him on the depth chart.

That humbleness was on full display again as he described his jewellery choices which included his two Grey Cup rings. “All they signify to me is memories. Things I can share with my kids and say “your Daddy was pretty sweet back in his day, and I’ve got the hardware to prove it”, but I’ve got a ring on my other finger…” motioning towards his wedding ring “and this one will mean more to me in my life, I’ll just keep that in mind.”

Cote also referenced his family during the official speech portion when discussing 2014. Joking after mentioning the two rings he got from playing football that season that he also got his wedding ring that year and asking the assembled media to put those in the proper order in the paper.

The first winner of the Herm Harrison award winner for community service says he won’t be shying away from helping with charities wherever possible and is excited as he looks forward to his future which includes a position with the Calgary Construction Association adding that the Stampeders Alumni connections are strong.

It says a lot about a player when he steps away from a championship calibre team despite likely still having it in him to play, but Cote seems to have no regrets about the decision. “It would have been after 2016, if we’d won,” Cote says. He also suggested he could play for 10 more years if it was only the playoffs but that the middle of the season demanded more attention and passion than he thinks he could provide.

The ultimate team-first guy making the ultimate team-first decision.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.