REGINA — The path to winning the 101st Grey Cup was years in the making for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Brendan Taman, the team’s general manager.
“Back in 2011, when they announced that the game was coming here, we knew that it was going to be pretty important that we had a good year and hopefully could get into it, let alone win it, so I felt some pressure obviously within for sure,” Taman said Monday, less than 24 hours after the Riders won the championship. “But as a group, we built it from (head coach) Corey (Chamblin) and the staff to the players and everybody we brought in, so yeah there was some pressure.”
The pressure eased Sunday night when the Roughriders dominated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23. The Riders, who will be feted in a parade through Regina on Tuesday, became the third straight host team to win the CFL title.
Taman, who walked into the news conference Monday holding the Grey Cup, enjoyed the moment. It was “very surreal,” he said.
“It’s a sense of relief and redemption and sort of verifying that you can win it, eventually. It’s not the easiest thing to win obviously, but it’s pretty gratifying,” said Taman.
In January, the Riders acquired veteran slotback Geroy Simon from B.C., then in free agency signed defensive ends John Chick and Canadian Ricky Foley as well as defensive back Dwight Anderson. In October, Taman gambled by acquiring rush end Alex Hall from Winnipeg.
But there was one guy Taman really wanted to see raise the cup: quarterback Darian Durant.
“You know, I talked to him this morning and he said ’Well, I already had one.’ I said ’No, you didn’t. Yeah, you were part of one,”’ said Taman.
“But he got this one, and I was so happy for him because I think we’re as popular at times as each other, sometimes we’re not, so I was really happy for him.”
Durant won a Grey Cup with the Riders in 2007, but he was one of the backup quarterbacks at that time. Durant was the starting pivot when the Riders got to the Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010, but they lost both games.
Chamblin agreed that he was excited to see Durant win.
“There were a couple of guys, but the biggest one of course would be Darian, just because he’s the quarterback. He does take a lot of the criticism and he’s put a lot on his shoulders over the last couple of years, so it was very good to see him get that cup,” Chamblin said Monday.
Chamblin said the fans also played a major role.
“The biggest thing right now, I can just tell you that stands out in my mind, was the crowd (Sunday) night and being on the stage and seeing all the green,” said Chamblin.
“When people say the stage was set, it was actually the stage was set and I think that was the biggest part of the celebration. There were some who watched it on TV, but it was surreal to be in that stadium last night.”
The Grey Cup championship parade will start at Mosaic Stadium and head south down Albert St. before ending in a rally at the provincial legislature.