From Ian Busby of The Calgary Sun
The locker-room is gone, the weather was nicer and the field was filled with kids instead of pro players, but McMahon Stadium was still the same to Darian Durant.
Almost six months after watching in disbelief as his Saskatchewan Roughriders gave away a Grey Cup win to the Montreal Alouettes, Durant returned to the scene for the Henry Burris All-Star Weekend.
Wearing a green Riders hat that said ‘100 Years of Pride,’ Saskatchewan’s starting quarterback helped put kids through the paces, chastising some for throwing underhand while yelling out positive encouragement constantly.
Despite his trademark smile, there was still some lingering memories of the Grey Cup loss back on Nov. 29.
“It was tough coming up here at first,” Durant said. “It’s part of the game, and that’s how it goes. Moments like that only make you stronger.
“It is still hard to put into words. Being at the highest point you can possibly be at and then hitting the lowest in two seconds is devastating. To have a chance at a championship and to see it go away like that is tough.”
After each session Saturday, Durant was one of the most popular players for autograph-seekers.
When Burris wrapped the early session, he told the kids they would be meeting at the southwest corner of the field.
“You know, where Darian comes out to cheers,” Burris said with a laugh. “That’s right. People cheer Darian here.”
Although Durant just finished his first season as the starting pivot in Saskatchewan, it’s clear he’s won over the fanbase.
It wasn’t surprising there were plenty of green-clad fans at a camp full of Stamps.
“It’s not stunning anymore, but it’s still a great feeling,” Durant said about the support in Calgary. “To come to another CFL city and have the same support as we do in Regina is a great feeling.”
Recently retired Riders defensive back Eddie Davis and former Eskimos running back Jesse Lumsden were a couple of the other CFL players to join guest of honour Warren Moon at the camp.
Several other current Stampeders and alums were also there, including Ken-Yon Rambo, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Rambo, who declared himself healthy for camp, couldn’t believe he was asked to sign a Riders hat by a young fan.
“Maybe I should draw an X through that,” Rambo said about the logo, but the youngster responded with a polite ‘no thanks.’
Training camp opens June 6, and Rambo can’t wait to get going to erase memories of last season, in which he only played three games after blowing out his ACL.
But no one is more motivated than Durant, who wants to put the stinging loss to the Als behind him.
“To be in the Grey Cup and have the lead with no time left on the clock, and not even win the game … it’s awful,” Durant said.
Since Durant and the Riders cleared out of the Stampeders’ locker-room after the Grey Cup game in November, a renovation has taken place.
The Stamps will have new digs and that can erase a bit of nostalgia for Durant whenever he returns to Calgary.
“I wouldn’t have gone in that locker-room much anyway, unless it was the Grey Cup again,” Durant said.
“But every time we come here and step on this field — and with us being a West team, it’s a lot — there is going to be a little piece of you that remembers what happened at your first Grey Cup.”