Friday, December 4, 2020
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Hufnagel a no-brainer for Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction

Calgary Stampeders President & General Manager, John Hufnagel speaks to the media at McMahon stadium in Calgary on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
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Hufnagel kept his quiet composure as head coach, but players quickly learned that it was always worth listening. Henry Burris, the Stamps’ starting quarterback in 2008, says Hufnagel’s speech before the Grey Cup that year was the best he’s ever heard.

“I haven’t heard a pre-game speech better than that worldwide,” Burris said. “The ‘we-have-them-right-where-we-want-them’ speech was definitely a trendsetter for that given evening.

“Look at the legacy he’s created for himself being a builder but also a former quarterback who’s been able to take the things that he’s learned under Wally Buono and turn it into such a successful career.

“Look how that team has been able to win year-in and year-out. He has the right tools about him as far as what it takes to create a winning culture. He definitely did that from Year 1 with all of us together.”

Hufnagel’s Hall of Fame case has only been bolstered in the years since. They’d make the Grey Cup in 2012. They’d win it in 2014 with Bo Levi Mitchell at QB, and would then go on to make three straight championship appearances between 2016 and 2018 when they won another Grey Cup.

Hufnagel changed and adapted with the times, but some things remained the same.

Mitchell remembers a practice in his first season as a starter in ’14. He was coming off a huge game against the Toronto Argonauts but threw a dumb interception early in practice.

“I was thinking (Hufnagel) wouldn’t even respond that much to it because this was right at the beginning of practice, as well, and he just lets me have it in front of everybody. Stops practice and lets me have it,” Mitchell said. “Dave (Dickenson), being the quarterbacks coach and O.C. at the time, he walks over and he could see I was a little bit in surprise that he would even react that way, at that point in the season, after a great win and Dave said, ‘Man, Bo, you’ve gotta understand, he does that to find out how you respond to it, and he wants to make sure he lets you know you made a mistake and he wants to make sure you never make that same mistake again.’

“I remember it came up about four or five weeks later — I was about to try to fit that same ball into a window in between two linebackers just because I thought I could do it. And instead of doing that, I check it down to Cornish and he breaks two tackles and goes for, like, 25 yards and got more yards than the initial throw would have gotten. And I just remember smiling on the field, thinking, ‘This is exactly why he does it.’ “

daustin@postmedia.com

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