Darian Durant credits Kerry Joseph for mentorship with Riders, laments not paying it forward

Photos: AP/Troy Fleece. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

Darian Durant remains one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and credits Kerry Joseph for showing him the ropes early in his CFL career.

“Kerry was so inviting, he didn’t hold any information back. He taught me the ins and outs of the league, he taught me how to be a professional, and when it came to not withholding anything, Kerry was that guy. I cannot thank him enough,” Durant told The Sportscage.

“Me learning the game, he just sped up that process for me. It was easy dealing with a guy like that. Even when he was traded to Toronto, we stayed in touch and he would help me out so much.”

Joseph, who now serves as the quarterbacks coach of the Chicago Bears, became Saskatchewan’s starting quarterback in 2006 after he was selected with the first overall pick in the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft. Durant signed with the team the following month and spent two years developing behind Joseph, who was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player and led the Riders to a Grey Cup victory in 2007.

“You don’t expect a guy — especially as accomplished as Kerry — to take this young quarterback, this rookie, and mentor him and show him everything about the league, but Kerry’s so selfless it’s hard to put into words. He really mentored me — even after practice, at nights, when quarterbacks would meet separately — he would make sure I understood the game plan just as well as he did,” said Durant.

“You never, ever see that in professional sports. The thing is, he didn’t even feel threatened. He came in from Ottawa and he just wanted to be a great person, he’s a God-fearing man. He’s as nice as anybody I’ve ever met in my life, so for him to do that, I owe him pretty much my career because I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have today if it wasn’t for Kerry Joseph.”

Durant shared the starting job with Marcus Crandell, Steven Jyles, and Michael Bishop in 2008 after Joseph was traded to the Argonauts. He finally became the team’s full-time starter in 2009 and led the Riders to back-to-back Grey Cup appearances, though they fell short in heartbreaking fashion to the Montreal Alouettes both times.

The native of Florence, S.C. was only 27 when he started his first Grey Cup and wasn’t ready to start sharing his knowledge with those behind him on the depth chart. By the time he felt old enough to do so, he elected not to out of fear for his job security.

“Honestly, I was more of a selfish quarterback, I wasn’t a Kerry Joseph-type. It’s not that I was the guy that would withhold information, but I just wasn’t as friendly. We were winning games, but I felt like I wasn’t in a position to where I could be a mentor. I was still young myself, so I was still trying to become the best quarterback that I could be, I was still learning,” said Durant.

“As I got older and we were switching coaches a lot and there was a lot of turnover, I felt my job was becoming in jeopardy a little bit more, so then I became the selfish guy. I can be honest about that: I really wasn’t the best mentor. As I look back, I probably could have been a lot nicer to some guys behind me.”

Some of the young quarterbacks who rubbed shoulders with Durant in Regina included Graham Harrell, Cole Bergquist, Drew Willy, Steven Jyles, Drew Tate, Tino Sunseri, Seth Doege, Brett Smith, Mitchell Gale, and Brandon Bridge. Willy and Jyles were the only two to become starters elsewhere in the league after being teammates of Durant, though neither panned out long-term.

Saskatchewan didn’t have a young heir apparent under centre when Durant was unceremoniously traded to the Montreal Alouettes in 2017 as Kevin Glenn took over at the age of 38. Bridge rotated with Glenn at times but never became the club’s full-time starter as Zach Collaros was acquired from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the following year.

Had things gone differently, it’s possible Durant could have helped groom the next franchise quarterback in Riderville just as Joseph did near the end of his career.

“Once you retire, you have a lot of time to sit back and reflect on your career and what you feel like you could have done better or relationships you wish you would have held on closer to you,” said Durant.

“I sit back and I think, ‘Man, Graham Harrell, I could have been a little bit more giving towards him’ or Drew Tate or some of the other guys who were behind me at the time. I really could have been more of a mentor, more friendly. … When I look back, I definitely wish that some of those relationships I would have held a little bit closer to my heart.”

Durant remains the second-leading passer in Roughriders history, throwing for 28,507 yards, 149 touchdowns, and 99 interceptions. He won two Grey Cups in Riderville, including one as a starter in 2013.