‘Charleston Hughes was the toughest I’ve ever had to play against’: Darian Durant

Photo: AP/Troy Fleece

Darian Durant played against a lot of legendary defenders during his Canadian Football League career.

When it comes to ranking the players he hated playing against the most, the Saskatchewan Roughriders legend said no one compares to one particular future Hall of Fame defensive end.

“It’s a no-brainer, it’s Charleston Hughes. If you look at our rivalry with Calgary over the years, it’s a crazy stat I looked at once he retired: he sacked me the most out of anyone in his career. That was a crazy stat I saw and he was just a guy that could do it all,” Durant told The Sportscage on 620 CKRM.

“He had no weaknesses. He even played until he was almost 40 years old, which is unheard of for a defensive end. He was a helluva player. He made plays all across the field and he was always in our backfield. Charleston Hughes was definitely the toughest player I’ve ever had to play against.”

Hughes suited up for 202 regular-season games and sits fifth all-time in CFL history with 136 career sacks. He amassed 519 defensive tackles, 39 special teams tackles, 19 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.

Hughes registered 15 of his 136 career sacks on Durant, but former Edmonton Football Team and B.C. Lions quarterback Michael Reilly owns the distinction of being the quarterback Hughes terrorized most with 18 sacks.

While Hughes was first on Durant’s most hated list, he was followed closely by retired defensive back Ryan Phillips who has gone on to become the B.C. Lions assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

The Seattle, Washington native enjoyed a 13-year playing career in the CFL, 12 of which came in B.C. He was named a West Division all-star five times and took home league honours four times while retiring as the team’s all-time record holder in interception return yards and defensive touchdowns. Phillips won two Grey Cups with the Lions as a player in 2006 and 2011.

“I’ve always had trouble playing against Ryan Phillips,” Durant said. “I keep using the word savvy, and I don’t want to take away from his athletic ability because he had it all, but he was just so smart. He knew what was coming. There was nothing that ever surprised him. I would have to say he definitely picked me off the most in my career.”

Known trash talker Odell Willis earned the honours of rounding out Durant’s top three. Willis suited up for 191 contests, missing just seven games over 11 seasons, and recorded 101 career sacks.

“He (Willis) was just a terror,” Durant said. “He made it tough on you whether he was in Winnipeg or Calgary. Then his time in Edmonton, he was a guy we had to game plan against to know where he was at all times. I just hated when it was our time to go against him. He really gave our tackles a lot of problems.”

“He was a guy I trained with in the offseason down in Atlanta and you would never hear the end of it if he was able to make a couple plays against us. He was a high-motor guy who never ever shut up and you didn’t want to hear him have anything to say to you.”