Claybrooks hiring the ‘right fit’ for Lions

VANCOUVER — He was hardly finished with his playing career when Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel told DeVone Claybrooks that he would one day make a good bench boss.

“I have to pay homage to those guys that took me under their wing,” Claybrooks told members of the media at his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “Because I really don’t know what Huf saw in me in 2011 to say, ‘I could see you being a head coach and a coordinator in this league one day. You should think about coaching.’ And then eight years later, look what happened now?”

Hufnagel’s prediction came true as Claybrooks was named the BC Lions’ head coach on Tuesday. He spent seven seasons on the coaching staff of the Calgary Stampeders before his promotion, as the team’s defensive line coach (2012-2015) and most recently the defensive coordinator (2016-2018).

» O’Leary: Time is now for Claybrooks, Lions to start anew
» Lions name DeVone Claybrooks head coach
 Long Read: Claybrooks opens up about brush with death


“I felt that this was the right fit,” Claybrooks said of joining the Lions, fresh off the Stampeders Grey Cup victory. “This is a marriage between Ed (Hervey) and myself. I think Ed, Mr. Braley and Rick (LeLacheur) just entrusted me with the keys to the car so to speak. Ed gets to pick the engine, I just decide how to drive it.”

With a new job comes new responsibilities and Claybrooks is ready for the challenges he’ll face.

“Trying to balance,” Claybrooks said, explaining what the biggest challenge will be going from coordinator or head coach. “I think that’ll probably be the key thing is to balance your time because ultimately my job is winning football games but my job is also to be in the community to be on the forefront. I can’t ask any of my players to do things that I won’t do. Every event that I can, I will make, I will be (there).”

Lions general manager Ed Hervey’s had a list of candidates that for the open head coach position after Wally Buono’s retirement and Claybrooks’ name sat at the very top. After meeting with Claybrooks over the last week to interview him for the position, Hervey knew hiring the former defensive lineman was the right decision.

“When you’re talking about rising star, up and coming coaches in this league, DeVone’s name is on the top of the list, obviously,” Hervey said. “Having an opportunity to not only get to know him over the course of the last few seasons but having the opportunity to interview him and sit and talk with him, have casual conversation with him during the interview process, I could tell right from the offset that it was not only the right fit for this organization but the right fit for me.”

Claybrooks will get to face the team that he spent so long with as a coach, and three years as a player, as he sets his sights on the 2019 season.

“Of course,” he said when asked if Calgary’s head coach Dave Dickenson should be nervous about facing his Lions. “Very nervous. Every other team should be too, to be honest. I’m not trying to be brash or cocky but you’ve got to have a certain swagger that you’re going to have in this game and we’re going to have it, the players are going to have it.

“We’re also going to play good, clean, hard football that is going to put on a good show for everybody but we’re going to play to our standard and that’s Lions football.”