Former Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant is back in Regina this week to be honoured as part of the 10th anniversary of the 2013 Grey Cup championship, but there wouldn’t have been anything to celebrate if not for the most infamous Twitter exchange in CFL history.
On Wednesday, Durant joined 980 CJME‘s The Green Zone to discuss that legendary season. Despite the team’s 11-7 regular season record and confetti shower after the final whistle, he was quick to point out that that year’s group had their fair share of struggles.
“Everything wasn’t peaches and cream with that season,” the retired signal-caller recalled. “We had a four-game losing streak. We had some injuries. We had a lot of trials and tribulations thrown our way and to overcome those things was amazing.”
Just like the current version of the Riders, the 2013 squad lost four straight games through the month of September. The skid cast serious doubts on the team’s status as a contender and the quarterback became a focal point for the outrage, including from Twitter user @ZuckRightOff.
That aptly named account, which was credited to a man named Christian Zuck and featured a selfie with Durant as the profile picture, went after the pivot following Saskatchewan’s 17-12 loss to Montreal. He advised that the key to Durant’s success was to get his “ass out of the pocket” as he had earlier in the season, reminding him that he wasn’t Anthony Calvillo.
Durant’s widely shared reply was curt and to the point: “Wasn’t running at the beginning of the season dumb f***!!”
A decade later, fans still recall the online exchange and Durant credits it for turning the season around.
“Sometimes when you’re going through hard times and you just keep everything in, you don’t get some of the results you would like in the end,” he told host Jamie Nye.
“I think for me to just release some of the things that I’d been feeling and to let not only the fan that made the tweet but just to let everyone know that I am human. I don’t go out there to struggle, I want to win. Just to let people know the human side of it as well and getting that out, I could feel the team rallying behind me.”
Durant was fined an undisclosed amount by the CFL for violating the league’s social media policy with what they described as an “offensive and inappropriate tweet.” However, the incident endeared him to a segment of the fanbase that appreciated his realness in the face of amateur criticism.
Teammates sided with Durant as well, including future Hall of Fame receiver Geroy Simon.
“Geroy’s foundation paid the fine so he had my back, one of the greatest of all time. Knowing that everyone had my back, even Jim Hopson and Coach Chamblin and Brendan Taman, they really didn’t say anything to me about it,” he revealed.
“Knowing that I had the support of every single person in that building, it was definitely a turning point for the season because I was finally able to let off some steam. To know I had the support of everyone, it made everything better for us.”
The Riders rattled off three straight wins to qualify for the postseason following the Twitter spat, while Durant personally was named a West Division all-star for the second and final time in his career. Looking back, he isn’t proud of the way he reacted to Zuck’s criticism but can’t dispute the results.
“I want to apologize to him now, I was caught in the moment. But, at the end of the day, whatever it takes to light a fire and because he definitely did that, it worked,” Durant said.
Most importantly, the interaction did not sour the quarterback’s relationship with the Green and White faithful. Winning the Grey Cup at home remains the defining accomplishment of his career, in large part due to the support from the stands.
“There’s no other fan base like Rider Nation. Their love and support, even to this day, has still been amazing,” he recalled. “That night, just embracing the love, finally feeling that sense of relief from winning, that was amazing.”