Darian Durant has moved on from a football perspective. Closing the door on 11 years worth of personal memories hasn’t been quite so easy.
The veteran quarterback is back in Regina for CFL Week, just over two months after Saskatchewan dealt his rights to Montreal. Not long after, Durant, 34, signed a three-year deal with the Alouettes, officially closing the door on his 11-year tenure with the Roughriders.
“I’ve had some time, a good amount of time, to wrap my mind around the change and I’m comfortable with it,” Durant said Wednesday. “It’s good being around my new teammates this week and I’m excited.”
What’s been tougher, though, has been cleaning out his Regina-based home.
“More than anything, the toughest part is when you look at all the memorabilia,” he said. “Having to pack all that stuff up and get rid of it is tough.
“This place has meant so much to me over the past 11 years, I’ve spent almost a third of my life here in Saskatchewan. It’s definitely not easy leaving but I am excited about what’s ahead.”
Durant appeared in 157 career regular-season games with the Riders, earning Grey Cup rings in 2007 and ’13. The first came as a backup but Durant was a key figure in leading Saskatchewan to its convincing 45-23 win over Hamilton at Mosaic Stadium for his second.
Durant amassed a 58-54-1 record in 113 career regular-season starts and stands second in club history in pass attempts (3,519), completions (2,186) and yards (28,136) and third in TD strikes (149). But Durant was also a fan favourite because of his approachable nature and countless hours spent in the community.
“Being somewhere for 11 years is defying the odds in itself,” he said. “I am truly thankful for that.
“Being somewhere where football is so special just gave me an appreciation for the career I have . . . it’s really helped me mature and become a better man and appreciate the things that life has to offer. I’ll forever be grateful.”
However, Durant’s departure from Regina wasn’t without some angst.
In November, Riders head coach/GM Chris Jones publicly referred to Durant as “moderately successful.” Then when asked about trading the ‘face of the franchise,’ Jones replied matter of factly. ‘Well, we won five ball games last year, with Darian â€” so that’s reality.’
Durant maintains Jones is certainly entitled to his opinion but wishes the situation was handled better.
“After 11 years and all I’ve done for that team, that community . . . I expected or would’ve liked a simple, ‘It’s time to part ways.’ or something of that nature,” Durant said. “No doubt, I felt it got personal.
“I just didn’t think I deserved that.”
Durant joins a Montreal team that’s been looking for a bona fide starter since Anthony Calvillo â€” currently its quarterbacks coach â€” retired following the 2013 season. The Alouettes finished tied for second in the East Division last year (7-11) with Hamilton but missed the CFL playoffs after losing the season series with the Tiger-Cats.
Durant should have no shortage of receiving weapons with veteran slotback Nik Lewis (102 catches, 1,136 yards, three TDs), the healthy return of S.J. Green and off-season addition of Ernest Jackson, who scored the game-winning TD in Ottawa’s thrilling 39-33 overtime Grey Cup win over Calgary in November.
“Oh my goodness, the pieces are in place in my opinion,” Durant said. “On paper we look great.
“It’s all about staying healthy and putting the work in and developing chemistry. We have some weapons that if we can all put in the work and do what’s necessary, we can make a great run.”
After suffering season-ending injuries in 2014 and ’15, Durant made 15 starts in 2016, completing 66.5 per cent of his passes for 3,839 yards with 14 TDs and just seven interceptions. For the first time in three years, Durant’s off-season is about preparation, not injury rehab.
“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I’m in great shape,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press