There was a lot of stories leading up to the Grey Cup. How Kent Austin, current head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, was the quarterback for Saskatchewan when he lead the team to the 1989 Grey Cup Championship over that year’s Hamilton squad. How he returned in 2007 as head coach for the Riders, and helped lead them again to victory against Winnipeg.
Andy Fantuz, former receiver with Saskatchewan, now playing for Hamilton. Henri Burris, a former Rider quarterback, now under center with Hamilton. Luca Congi, former kicker for Saskatchewan, now using his leg for the Tiger-cats.
Those stories were talked about, but there are others now that the game is done, and the Riders are the 2013 Grey Cup Champs.
Rider quarterback Darian Durant is the ultimate professional. He works hard and takes a very serious leadership role for his team. Many have said it’s hard playing in Saskatchewan because the province and the team are so connected. A small market means you’re under the microscope every day. But Darian took his criticism in stride and didn’t let it overwhelm him. He was a third string quarterback in 2007. In 2009 and 2010, he lead the Riders to the Grey Cup only to lose each to the Montreal Alouettes. But he now shares something close to Rider great Ron Lancaster. No other quarterback since Lancaster has lead the Riders to more than one Grey Cup. Lancaster was the Little General in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1972 and 1976, winning it in 1966. Durant’s been there four times, starting three of those games. Durant deserves as much respect as Lancaster has received in this province.
There’s even more stories. The local players, born and raised in Saskatchewan who dreamed of playing for the hometown Riders. Guys like Chris Getzlaf, Neil Hughs, Brendan Labatte, and Ben Hennan. To win it all is one thing, but to win it in front of their home fans is a completely different feeling.
And there’s the story of Kory Sheets, who was brought down to earth by his teammates, to set ego aside and do what he does for the team. Not only did he win the MVP for the Grey Cup, but he set a Grey Cup record for yards rushed with 197.
There’s Geroy Simon, the veteran, who had been in the Grey Cup three times before with the B.C. Lions, but never had caught a touchdown pass. This year, he caught two.
And there’s the Riders head coach, Corey Chamberlain. Corey is most likely the youngest head coach ever to win a Grey Cup. He’s also only the third black head coach to win a championship in football at the professional level. Mike Clemons of the Toronto Argonauts became the first black head coach to win a Grey Cup in 2004. Four years later, in 2008, Tony Dungy was the field boss for the Indianapolis Colts as they defeated the Chicago Bears for the Super Bowl Championship. Now, in 2013, Corey Chamberlain becomes only the third black head coach to win a professional football Championship.
In Saskatchewan, this Grey Cup will be talked about for decades to come. There’s still people who talk about 1966 when Ron Lancaster and George Reed won with the Riders as they helped beat Russ Jackson and the Ottawa Rough Riders. People still talk about 1989 when Dave Ridgeway booted the winning field goal with two seconds left to defeat Hamilton in a shoot out. And they still talk about 2007 when Kerry Joseph used his arm and his legs to lead the Riders to victory.
Now, we can talk about Durant, Sheets, Getzlaf, Dressler, Simon, Bagg and all the others who stepped up and won the 2013 Grey Cup. We’ll talk about it for a very long time.