Darian Durant believes winning his first career start at quarterback was vitally important.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders gave Durant the nod against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 12, 2008 at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Riders were 1-1 heading into Week 3.
“A whole bunch of nerves, but I prepared for that opportunity, I was ready. Having guys like Dress [Weston Dressler], Adarius Bowman was on the team at the time, [Andy] Fantuz, just having that chemistry with the guys I’ve been practising with for years, it just came all out on display,” Durant said on The Rod Pedersen Show.
Indeed it did. The work Durant and his teammates put in while on the practice roster had the University of North Carolina product ready for his first pro start. Durant used the first quarter to ease into the game and three plays into the second quarter he connected with Neal Hughes for a touchdown. That gave the Riders a 10-1 lead.
Two Jesse Lumsden touchdown runs put Hamilton within two during the third quarter. However, Durant responded by hooking up with Dressler for a 30-yard touchdown — the first major of many for the pair. Lumsden kept slicing Saskatchewan’s defence and the Ticats held a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Durant took the field with his offence, one minute and 31 seconds on the clock. After a first down completion to Fantuz, the Riders pivot endeared himself to the green and white faithful. No. 4 hit Dressler for 67 yards which setup Wes Cates’ game-winning touchdown run — 33-28 Saskatchewan was the final, which made Durant 1-0 to start his career.
“In this league, in the CFL, you could lose your career if you lose your first start as a quarterback because quarterbacks don’t get a lot of opportunity over and over to show if they can be successful,” Durant said.
“I knew that at the time and I wanted to come out and show the Riders that they had a guy of the future.”
That’s exactly what Durant displayed and it led to a Grey Cup championship on home soil in 2013 and cemented his legendary franchise status.