When he drew it up, Darian Durant probably didn’t expect his playing career in football end just a few months after signing a deal with one of his former team’s biggest rivals without ever playing a game for them.
For most players, that would probably be downright weird, but for Durant, it’s almost oddly fitting. An unconventional retirement for a guy who had an interesting career.
There’s no question that Durant is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the green and white. His numbers and 2013 Grey Cup ring certainly suggest that. He’s up there with the likes of Ron Lancaster and Kent Austin. That’s rarefied air.
Living in Regina though, there were times you would never have guessed it and it never really made sense.
During my time covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders day in and day out for CJME, I was consistently gobsmacked by the some of the comments we would get regarding Durant. His detractors became a big part of his story. There’s no question that people who questioned Durant’s ability to lead the team were a big part of his motivation. Durant loved to prove those who thought he couldn’t do it wrong.
Despite accolades, the numbers and more or less having his team in contention during his entire career in Saskatchewan, Durant always seemed to have that “yeah, but” factor. Sadly, it felt that race played a factor at times. I believe that’s a very, very small part of the fanbase (I hope, anyway), but it was there, unfortunately. Otherwise, there were people who legitimately questioned his abilities to win the big one.
Despite how some people felt about Durant, there’s no question he could do it on the field and if you really needed to see it in action, then he did it in 2013.
A lot is made about the 2013 Grey Cup and rightfully so, but without the West semifinal that year, the Grey Cup never happens. That semifinal was hands down the signature game of Durant’s career. Without him throwing the team on his back in the fourth quarter against the B.C. Lions, who knows what might have happened. By coming back to win that game, Durant single-handedly changed the future of the franchise. Durant made sure that Brendan Taman and Corey Chamblin remained employed. He kept who knows who many players on the roster. Given the fact that they were all-in that year, if the Riders had lost that game, who knows what would have happened that offseason. (Winning that game also had some negative effects, as we saw over the next few seasons, as a rebuild was probably in order afterwards to get younger, but I think Rider Nation is ok with winning that cup with some future cost.)
Instead, they won. For some Durant instantly became a legend. For others, it was never enough.
After that, the injuries quickly settled in, a rocky relationship with the new regime and a bad offensive line in Montreal basically gave Durant no chance to recover. He was set to be a backup in Winnipeg. It all happened so fast.
Nothing about Durant’s career was ever normal, guess it shouldn’t be surprising his retirement wasn’t either.