A leader. A willing student. A friend. A Champion.
That’s how a few of Darian Durant’s former teammates and coach are remembering the quarterback after he announced his retirement on his website Friday.
The 12 year CFL veteran had signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in January but said he would be ending his career on a post that read “I have some opportunities away from the field that will allow me to transition smoothly into the next stage of my life. I also became a father earlier this year and being able to see my daughter grow up day-by-day has played a big part in this decision.”
Durant also expressed his love for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fans.
“If you cut me open, I am sure that I would bleed green. Saskatchewan and Regina will always be home.”
Former Riders receiver Chris Getzlaf also retired earlier this year and was a member of the 2013 Grey Cup championship team along with Durant.
He said the first thing he did when he heard the news was reflect on their time together.
“There’s a lot of history between him and I and getting the chance to play together for so many years and have a lot of success on the field,” Getzlaf said. “It’s a great teammate and great friend that’s now hanging them up.”
Getzlaf and Durant spent time together on the scout team before both would eventually take over the starting jobs.
“I think we both just had the desire and commitment to try to better ourselves, no matter what it took, in order to get the chance to go on the field and be an actual starter.”
It was that desire that former head coach Ken Miller saw right away, even while he was still the third-string quarterback.
“Darian didn’t ever take any time off in the meeting room, he was always attentive and a contributor.”
Miller, who was the Riders head coach from 2008 to 2011, said they had a father/son relationship during their tenure.
“I was a fairly strict father in a lot of ways and really expected Darian to do well in everything he did, I always felt like Darian always had a little bit more to give, a little bit more development that he could take and achieve at a higher level.”
Miller was overjoyed when the team, led by Durant, finally won it all in 2013 at Mosaic Stadium.
“To see them get that Grey Cup was an absolute joy, I wish we would’ve been able to have done it sooner but I was so pleased for all of the players.”
Former Riders quarterback Kerry Joseph, who won the Grey Cup in 2007, said he remembers Durant as being someone who just wanted to learn the Canadian game and get better.
“He took it all in, he was patient and you see the career that he had.”
Joseph was already wearing number four with the Riders when Durant first arrived. Once Joseph left, Durant called him to ask if he could take the number.
“I’m like ‘Man, I’d be honoured if you wear it.’”
One of the current Riders who Durant still kept in contact with is offensive lineman Dan Clark, who said he looked up to Durant like a big brother.
“Always pushing me to get better, always being the example to be a teammate, put a lot of time on his own shoulders and led the team the way it was supposed to be led and helped me become the leader I am today,” Clark said.
Clark said Durant belongs in the conversation with some of the all-time Rider greats including Ron Lancaster and George Reed.
Green Zone game day analyst Belton Johnson also got a chance to play with Durant as the QB was just beginning his CFL career. He said the rest of the offensive line could tell how talented Durant was.
“We see this young Durant ripping it up and practice and we all thought that he probably should’ve been the quarterback and everything.”
As so many others have stated, it was Durant’s leadership and work ethic that Johnson noticed quickly. He said when he would go in early to get a workout in, Durant would already be there watching film and studying the game.
Durant said in his statement he is looking at starting up a foundation to raise funds and give back to the community.
— With files from Jamie Nye