Derek Dennis got a call from John Hufnagel right after he was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Huf reached out to me as soon as the news broke and asked if I was interested in coming back. And I told him yeah, I was more than interested in coming back,” Dennis told Mark Stephen on The White Horse Rides podcast.
The former Stampeder was the highest paid American offensive lineman in 2017. He made over $180,000 in 2017 which was due to rise to the high $180,000 range in the final two years of his original three-year agreement with Saskatchewan. But Dennis was cut loose shortly after the free agent period started.
“I took a couple days to work out some numbers and that’s where we are today. In the game of football, it’s not just about the size of the paycheck, you also have to make sure that you’re going to an environment where the people actually believe in you, they show you that they believe in you and they put you in positions to be successful. Unfortunately, things just didn’t work out for me in Saskatchewan – I have no ill will toward them. I just needed to get back to a place where I was before I left,” Dennis said.
Dennis signed that lucrative three-year deal last February after winning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman award in 2016. During his first year with the green and white the 29-year-old started out as the team’s left tackle, but after Bruce Campbell came out of retirement Dennis was shifted to left guard. He started nine games there and missed three due to injury.
“The football aspect of things just didn’t mesh with what I was accustomed to in Calgary. I had gotten used to a system and being around football coaches who were very passionate about putting their players in position to succeed and I just felt like it was a hard adjustment for me to adjust to the culture that they have in Saskatchewan. That’s no knock against what they do,” Dennis said.
After returning to Calgary, Dennis is happy to be in an environment where he knows he’ll enjoy playing football again.
“I kind of let last year and the hype of everything, just the atmosphere of all that people wanted to see get to me,” Dennis said. “I’m just focusing on recapturing my 2016 form.”