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February 2, 2018

O’Leary: Hughes departure signals end of an era in Cowtown

Angela Burger/Stampeders.com

After 10 years, 162 games and two Grey Cup wins, an era is ending in Calgary.

Charleston Hughes, shredder of offensive lines, quarterback obliterater and a PhD in trash talk, is moving on.

The 34-year-old was shipped to Hamilton and then two hours later traded to Saskatchewan for QB Vernon Adams Jr.

“In a salary-cap world, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made and this is definitely a very difficult decision,” Stamps president and GM John Hufnagel said in a release that announced the deal.

“Charleston has been a big part of our winning ways over the past 10 years and I thank him for his service and for the positive impact he made on this organization and this community. I wish him nothing but the best for the future.”

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» Ticats land Hughes in trade with Stamps
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Charleston Hughes practises in the week leading up to the 105th Grey Cup in Ottawa (CFL.ca)

Coaches and players will always tell you that football is a team game, that success comes from the efforts of dozens of people working in sync together. That’s true, but it’s no coincidence that Hughes was an integral part of a decade of the Stampeders almost always being an elite, top-dog team in the CFL.

When he arrived in 2008, the Stamps finished in first place for the first time in seven years. They’ve sat at the top of the CFL West mountain for six of the last 10 years, played in five Grey Cups and played in nine West finals. There were others that played a part in that, but Hughes was a pillar of a defence that has routinely been feared across the league.

Before any of that, Hughes stood as a CFL rookie in the team’s front office at the  end of his first training camp and was involved in the only conversation he didn’t want to be a part of as a football player.

Jim Barker, the Stamps’ GM at the time, cut him. An injury created an opening for Hughes and he was back on the field in uniform two weeks later.

“A week later this guy came back, he was mentally prepared, he came out and showed what he could do,” Barker told CFL.ca in May, 2017. “He had the experience from training camp and he’s been on the field now (ever since). Those things happen.”

Now we’ll find out what happens in his 11th CFL season as Hughes looks to climb up the all-time sack list.  He currently sits 12th all time with 99 QB take-downs.