After a crazy day, Charleston Hughes happy to end up in Riderville

Charleston Hughes is over the whirlwind that was his becoming a Saskatchewan Roughrider.

The veteran defensive end was traded twice Friday. Originally, the Calgary Stampeders dealt the CFL’s sacks leader the last two years and an ’18 fourth-round pick to Hamilton for 2018-19 fourth-round selections.

Later, Hamilton sent Hughes, a native of Saginaw, Mich., to Saskatchewan for quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

“It was a whirlwind for sure,” Hughes told reporters in Regina on Wednesday. “Once I did get shipped off to Hamilton it was, ‘All right, there’s some benefits to being there, just being closer to home, mom finally being able to come to a game instead of Grey Cup.

“But only being there 30 seconds was a taste of reality, like ‘All right, I’m over that, so on to the next.’ This (Riders) hat and this shirt are actually the first pieces of green I’ve put on so now I feel like it’s official and feel ready to play now.”

The 34-year-old admitted he was stunned to be leaving Calgary after 10 seasons let alone being dealt twice in one day.

“Honestly, I never imagined I’d be anywhere else besides Calgary,” said the two-time Grey Cup champion. “After actually getting traded and going from Hamilton to Saskatchewan it was a shocker for a little bit.

“Even though it’s not by choice, I’m going to a good team, a Grey Cup-contending team, and I feel like we’re going to make it all the way.”

Saskatchewan (10-8) finished fourth in the West Division last year, reaching the playoffs as a crossover team. After dispatching defending champion Ottawa 31-20 in the East semifinal, the Riders’ season ended with a 25-21 loss to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts in the conference final.

It’s already been a busy off-season for Saskatchewan, which released veteran starter Kevin Glenn, extended Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge and receiver Duron Carter while also acquiring Zach Collaros from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. And on Sunday, the Riders re-signed defensive lineman Willie Jefferson, who had a team-high eight sacks last year.

The addition of the six-foot-one, 240-pound Hughes, who had a CFL-best 11 sacks last year and has 27 over the last two seasons, gives Saskatchewan a dynamic 1-2 punch up front. Hughes recorded 99 sacks in 147 career regular-season games with Calgary.

Saskatchewan’s defence had 27 sacks last year, second-last in the nine-team CFL.

Hughes, a four-time CFL all-star who’s registered double-digit sacks in five of the last six seasons, said he’s spoken to Jefferson and plans on mentoring his 27-year-old teammate.

“I just told him, ‘It’s going to be a pleasure playing with you,’ ” Hughes said. “Make sure you have your pen and pad ready because I’m going to tell him everything I know.

“I’m going to release all the tricks and the tools to make him a better player and just show him what I know. Just being in that defensive line locker-room is going to make the defensive line that much better.”

Hughes will chase a third straight CFL sacks title, an accomplishment he said would be, “half man, half amazing.” Entering his 11th season, Hughes said he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of years left to play and a lot of improving yet to do.”

The trade to Saskatchewan reunites Hughes with offensive lineman Derek Dennis. The two were teammates in Calgary (2015-16) before Dennis joined the Riders as a free agent in 2017.

The two have engaged in plenty of colourful banter on social media but Hughes said his arrival in Regina should benefit Dennis like it did when the two were in Calgary. The six-foot-three, 345-pound Dennis was the CFL’s top lineman his final season with the Stampeders.

“When he was in Calgary with me he was the offensive lineman of the year,” Hughes said. “Just like I told him . . . practising against the best is going to make you the best player so now that he gets to practise against me again, he’s going to be awesome.

“Feeling the energy I bring to the game, everybody will be a better player, trust me.”

– CP