VANCOUVER — DeVone Claybrooks has finally found the right place to become a head coach.
There have been other job opportunities in both the CFL and NFL, the 41-year-old said, but something was always off.
That changed with an offer from the B.C. Lions. He was announced as the team’s new head coach Tuesday.
“It’s about fit and right place and right circumstances. Because you don’t want your first job to be your last,” the former Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator told reporters.
The difference in B.C. is the team’s general manager, Ed Hervey, Claybrooks said.
“It’s about trust. And with the other opportunities, I didn’t feel 100 per cent that I could buy in and that it would be the way it should be or the way it had been presented to me,” he said. “At least I can say with this guy here is what I see is what I get.”
"I almost died. I found out I was a diabetic the hard way. My mom cleaned up all the sugar and every sweet imaginable in my house."
Less than four months after near-death experience, DeVone Claybrooks is blessed to be #BCLions head coach.
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) December 12, 2018
Claybrooks spent seven years on the Stamps’ coaching staff, including four as the defensive line coach, and won a Grey Cup with the team last month.
Calgary’s defence allowed the fewest points in the league over his three seasons as defensive co-ordinator.
He reportedly also interviewed with Toronto for their open head coach position, which the Argonauts filled by hiring Corey Chamblin on Monday.
Competition for the “rising star” was stiff, Hervey said.
“DeVone was the number one candidate. Make no mistakes about it. This was clear across the board,” he said. “I want sure if we were going to be able to get him.”
The interview process was about two weeks long, but Hervey said he’s been getting to know Claybrooks for several years and has long wanted to work with him.
“We have this similar belief on how football teams should be built and we’re excited about that and we’re looking forward to the challenges that are ahead,” he said.
With several key players eligible for free agency this year, the team Claybrooks and Hervey build could look much different come training camp.
Neither gave may clues Tuesday about who might be on their roster, but both said they’re looking for hard-working players who want to win.
“I can’t predict what we’re going to be but I can predict one thing — we’re going to be extremely hard working and we’re going to be very physical on the field and we’re going to be disciplined,” Hervey said.
Claybrooks replaces Wally Buono, who retired at the end of the season following 46 years in the CFL.
“I’m not trying to fill Wally’s shoes. I’m wearing my own,” the new coach said.
“So I’m going to forge my own legacy and my own standard of what we’re doing around here. We’re just going to build off that platform that he left us. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The native of Martinsville, Va., spent 11 years playing defensive tackle in the NFL, CFL and in Europe.
As far back as high school, coaches helped him understand not on his role, but the defence as a whole, molding the way he viewed the game and guiding him towards coaching after his playing career ended.
Claybrooks said he got into coaching to help young men become grown men.
“It’s funny because you get players and they first get there and they’re chasing girls and swiping left and right and playing video games,” he said with a laugh. “And then when they leave you years later, they’ve got families and careers and are talking about their second careers and all that. That’s more rewarding than anything.”
The coaching appointment caps a busy year for Claybrooks, who suffered a major health scare in August.
A neighbour found him semi-conscious in his Calgary home and he was rushed to hospital, where he was later diagnosed with diabetes.
Now Claybrooks sees that he had “every warning sign in the book,” from blurred vision and increased urination to fatigue, but excused each, thinking he was working too hard or coming down with the flu.
“All the signs were there, but it was like it was in a French and I was speaking English,” he said.
It was his mother, Sally Claybrooks, who knew something was wrong when her eldest child said he wasn’t going to work and then didn’t call. She called the neighbour, was in the hospital when he woke up and took care of him as he recovered.
“She cleaned up all the sugar and every sweet imaginable that was in my house. They were all gone and replaced with fruit. I think I’m the last two months, I’ve eaten more fruit than in my 41 years of life,” Claybrooks said.
Sally Claybrooks was also on hand Tuesday as her son was announced the 26th coach in B.C. Lions history.
“Words can’t even explain it. I’m just excited,” she said, beaming. “To see him live out his childhood dream, it’s just so amazing. A lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifices that he’s made, just to get where he is today.”
THE CANADIAN PRESS