Sometimes being a fan of a football team sucks. It doesn’t suck because the team is terrible or your season ticket prices went up; it sucks because sometimes the business of football stabs you in the heart.
I first bought a Charleston Hughes jersey in 2010 and wore it proudly as I cheered every tackle, every dance after every sack, and every win that the StampMachine contributed to over the last decade. It was a decade of excellence that saw him win the sack title three times, get named to the All Star team three times and hold the Grey Cup aloft twice.
Always affable, ready with a quote and never shying away from trash talk with both opponents and fans, Hughes was one of the faces of the Hufnagel era.
Now, because he collected the cheque that befitted his status as the best defensive end in the league, he finds himself a casualty of the business side of the game.
Traded to Hamilton for a fourth-round pick and then quickly flipped to the Roughriders in exchange for Vernon Adams, Hughes suggests he is nowhere near the end of the road. “I’m still at the top of my game…my knees work and like my old friend Smitty says, I still got all my teeth, so…”
With a whole secondary still to consider, Hughes became a salary cap liability given the depth the Stampeders currently boast at the position. “Charleston had a sizable amount of money coming to him in the very very near future…” says GM John Hufnagel and noting that he joins the fans in thinking the return wasn’t high enough for a player of Hughes calibre. “It was either try and get something or put him out on the street.”
Hufnagel added that he thought Hughes name should eventually join the Wall of Fame here at McMahon but mentioned that “Will Johnson is probably happy” as Hughes leaves Calgary tied with Johnson atop the all-time sack list with 99 career QB drops. Hughes agrees “I do expect to see my name up there, my teammates or ex-teammates now, a lot of them called me a walking talking Hall of Famer and that’s part of what drives me”
Hughes found himself on the outside looking in following the re-signing of Ja’Gared Davis earlier this week.
Every year on my Horsemen Radio podcast, along with my co-hosts, I get the opportunity to sit down with the Stampeders head coach for a preseason interview. Inevitably, the question comes up as to who the coach sees as a player that will surprise fans in their effectiveness on the field. A player that will step to the fore who may have previously gone unnoticed. Last year, without even a moment’s reflection Dave Dickenson named Davis.
“He’s a player that we need to get onto the field,” Dickenson said expressing admiration for Davis’ athletic abilities.
Well, you can chalk another one up for the Stamps bench boss when it comes to the football IQ chart as Davis went on to start in place of the injured Cordarro Law racking up nine sacks in 10 games while suffering through a few injuries himself. Add in two forced fumbles with two recoveries and Davis put together a very notable stretch run.
Defensive Coordinator DeVone Claybrooks suggested that Davis would have been a shoo-in for the sack title if he had stayed healthy. As it was, he tied for third behind now former teammate Hughes and Victor Butler despite the shortened season.
Alongside Micah Johnson, Derek Wiggan, Randy Colling and Cordarro Law, re-signing Davis means the Stampeders are once again set to make every CFL QB keep their head on a swivel.
The Stampeders have led the loop the last two seasons in QB take-downs finishing with 50 and 52 respectively which is a big part of why the Stamps have also allowed the fewest points over that same time-span.
Davis is just the latest Stampeder to put his name on the dotted line in Calgary and Hufnagel has been hard at work this winter locking up key pieces of his two-time West Division Champion squad.
The Stamps are still likely waiting to see what happens with pending free agents DaVaris Daniels, Roy Finch, and Ciante Evans down south before committing big money elsewhere but have been chipping away slowly at a list that still includes national running back Jerome Messam, receiver Anthony Parker, and nearly the entire starting secondary short of Brandon Smith