Glanville already adding swagger to Ticats’ defence

It was unique, to say the least, to see it unfolding on Tim Hortons Field. As the defensive backs worked out during Day 2 of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ mini-camp, they were simulating interception returns. Sure enough, the ball would go up in the air, a black jersey would snag it, run with it and then lateral it off to a teammate, who would juke around the field, look behind him and lateral it back again.

Even in a mini-camp, it’s a gutsy move, the kind of thing you might try out in a video game or something that young kids do when they’re comfortably in front in a pickup game.

If you’ve followed him at all through his 51-year coaching career, you know that what happened on Wednesday was Jerry Glanville putting his swaggery stamp all over the Ticats’ defence.

“We’ll do that,” promised Glanville’s longtime partner in sideline duties, June Jones. “If we get a pick, we’re going to lateral it and try to score a touchdown on the pick. You’ve got some risk involved in it, but if we do it enough these kids will learn how to do it and we’ll score on it.”

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At 76-years old with a resume that zigzags across America, through the NCAA and NFL, you might think Glanville had had enough of early rises and long days spent picking over the minute details of a game plan. You could argue the same for Jones, who turned 65 in February. Glanville set that idea straight quickly when he interrupted his afternoon workout to meet the media.

“In the NFL, they’ve got a name for guys like June and me,” Glanville said, his hair slightly disheveled, aviators firmly sitting on his face. “They call us lifers. Those two guys will be coaching when they put them in the box. Somewhere. We don’t care where. We’ll be coaching somewhere.”

That somewhere has somehow turned out to be Hamilton, in the CFL. Jones, of course, came in last season and assumed head coaching duties after the team’s first eight games. Glanville was a guest coach in Ticats’ training camp last year and Jones jumped at the chance to offer the defensive coordinator job to his longtime friend, pairing them together for the sixth time in their careers.

Speaking separately on Wednesday afternoon, they completed each other’s sentences, the seam of all of those years spent together in meeting rooms and on planes becoming perfectly visible to everyone in the room. Jones tells a story of Glanville bringing in a very last-minute kicker during the 1987 NFL strike. He drilled the ball off of the rear ends of his offensive linemen with every rushed practice shot he took, until he got into the game and made all five of his attempts. “That could only happen to Jerry,” Jones said through laughter.

“You know what?” Glanville said. “He never missed a field goal.”

Glanville tells a grimmer story of having to wear a bulletproof jacket on the sidelines for a playoff game with the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. Jones came to Glanville’s side during the game and mid-conversation felt something hit him in the back.

“They got me!” Glanville mimicked, drawing laughter out of the reporters in the room. “I said, ‘June, get up. It was an apple.’ He thought whoever was going to shoot me had shot him. You should have seen his face. That was awesome.”

Glanville brings colour, flavour, laughter and swagger everywhere he goes. He seems to come by it naturally and it seems to trickle down to his players. Which brings us back to those laterals. As the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 1991, Glanville and his star cornerback, Deion Sanders, were a perfect pair. Glanville loved the risky but rewarding creative plays on turnovers and Sanders loved being the benefactor of it.

“I’m not a guy that says, ‘You have to run the Jerry Glanville system.’ The Jerry Glanville system is totally based on what can you do best and we’ll change the system.”

Ticats defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville

Jerry Glanville is set to coach alongside June Jones for the sixth time in their career (The Associated Press)

Atlanta was emerging as a hip-hop hub in the early ’90s and Sanders became fast friends with the man at the top of that musical mountain at that time, in MC Hammer. The rapper became a regular on the sidelines for Falcons games and sometimes addressed the team before games (“It was better than anything than I ever would have said in 100 years. What was inside the guy was awesome,” Glanville said).

Glanville and the Falcons appeared in MC Hammer’s 1991 video, 2 Legit 2 Quit. The team embraced that mentality that season, making it to the second round of the playoffs before losing to Washington.

“MC Hammer was a great guy but he had an entourage, unfortunately, so when MC Hammer showed up there was about 17 of them,” Glanville said. “I think they’re the 17 that spent all of his money. But the players loved him.”

As he starts to lay the building blocks for a defence in a league that he too is still learning, Glanville wants his players to be fast, bold and confident. There will be laterals on turnovers, or at least a green light on them, anyway, and there will undoubtedly be swagger. Who knows what else can turn up as a season progresses?

“Every job we have, we want to get to the 10th floor,” Glanville said. “I’d say June and I (in the past) unfortunately have started in the basement and we had to try to work our way up. Somehow we were fortunate enough to get there sometimes.

“This job, I think when we walked in here we were already on the eighth floor. This is not a throw-out-everything-they-did (job). How about me? I’m running a defence I’ve never run in my life. I’ve watched the film and the defence they were running here was pretty good. I’m not a guy that says, ‘You have to run the Jerry Glanville system.’ The Jerry Glanville system is totally based on what can you do best and we’ll change the system.”