Living the dream

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Scott Coe always thought he would play professional football for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In a fraternity as small as the Canadian Football League, you never say never but now that he's into his third season with the Calgary Stampeders, the linebacker who never met a microphone he didn't like can't think of playing anywhere else.

"Coming out of Winnipeg and from the Manitoba Bisons, I just assumed Winnipeg was going to be my place," Coe said in a telephone interview from Calgary. "But when I was passed up a couple times and realized that maybe that's not going to happen, you have to become a little more open-minded. You've got to play where you're wanted and where you're needed."

Coe played high school football for the Kelvin Clippers, then went on to play four seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons.

He was a key member of the leadership core and was at the heart of a dominant defence at outside linebacker. Coe helped the Bisons win a Canada West title in 2001 and advance to the Vanier Cup, where they lost to the St. Mary's Huskies.

His strong play caught the attention of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who selected him in the fifth round (43rd overall) of the 2002 CFL Canadian Draft.

And while he strongly considered returning to the Bisons for his fifth and final season of eligibility, Coe ultimately opted to turn pro with the Tabbies.

"I was very close," said Coe. "We were sitting at a buddy's place on draft day, listening to who was being taken and who wasn't. Myself and (fellow Bisons linebacker) Joey Mikawoz were picked back-to-back. Joey went to Winnipeg and I went to Hamilton. Since it was the fifth round, we thought we were going back. I didn't even assume I'd be making the team. I got to training camp and had trained very hard in the off-season. It turned out well for me in Hamilton and I made the squad, which was great."

Most of his time during the first CFL season was spent on special teams, where he picked up 16 tackles to finish second on the club.

"It was a fantastic learning ground for a rookie," said Coe, noting guys like Rob Hitchcock, Paul Osbaldiston, Danny McManus and Warren Muzika helped show him the ropes. "They told me all the things I should and shouldn't do as a rookie. I never sat in a chair in a meeting, I was spending $50 a day on breakfast for these veterans. I had a middle seat on airplane rides. It was little things but they went a long way."

By his second season, Coe saw considerable time as a starter and began to showcase his ability, recording 26 tackles, one sack and two interceptions to go along with 13 special teams tackles.

Free agency couldn't have come at a better time.

"Hamilton actually wanted me to sign a contract going into my second year and I decided against it," said Coe. "I decided I would try free agency and it was very different. I wanted to see what the market was like. There were some teams that I talked to and they were interested. It's a great thing being a Canadian player in a market where there's always a demand for special teams players and for guys who have experience as a starter. I was very lucky in that regard."

Some thought Coe might sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but the Blue and Gold seemed to be set at linebacker, so Coe went further west and signed with the Stamps.

"It was one of the best moves I've ever made," said Coe, 26.

But it was not without upheaval and controversy. The Stamps ownership was in question in 2004 and the Matt Dunigan as head coach experiment proved to have a not-so-happy ending.

"It was actually a little bit of deja vu because I was in Hamilton the year before when we were 1-and-17 and ownership kind of jumped ship on us," said Coe. "Uncertainty about the ownership was something I was used to. Unfortunately it happens in this league. Coach Dunigan was an intense coach and a very different coach. It took a little bit to get used to."

Coe played under Dunigan in 2004 and for Tom Higgins the past two seasons. The one constant has been defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan.

"Playing in his 3-4 system gave me a chance to play linebacker and that's one of the reasons I'm still around here," said Coe, who signed a long-term deal with the Stamps. "Right up until game time, we're still preparing and really getting focused on what we do. I've never ever been more prepared as a player than I have been when I have been in Denny Creehan's system."

One of the things that stands out when looking at Coe's biography in the media guide is that NHL legend Wayne Gretzky was his childhood idol growing up.

"I was always a big hockey fan and Wayne Gretzky, he was the best," said Coe. "What can I say? What he did with the puck, he could dish it and score. He was so silky smooth. He was always a guy I looked up to and wanted to play like. I played hockey since I was two-years-old."

The Stampeders have had an up-and-down season in 2006 but remain in the thick of things in the West Division.

"We came out of the gates pretty good," said Coe. "We had a little bit of a lull in our middle third and then we came on strong. We're hopefully trying to finish off the season with a couple wins."

For himself personally, Coe can't believe he's already playing his fifth season in the CFL.

"Absolutely, it's gone by quick," said Coe. "It's a dream come true for me to play and to play this long."

But Coe doesn't plan on losing his job anytime soon, since he's hoping to follow in the footsteps of a fellow Canadian linebacker.

"I'd like to be one of those Canadian guys, kind of like a Mike O'Shea, who has been around for a long time," said Coe. "There's so much respect when a Canadian player comes through the ranks and sees a guy like Mike, who has played in the league so long and understands the game so well and continues to play well. He's a guy I looked up to as I came up and I still look up to him."

Bisons head coach Brian Dobie believed Coe would do well in the CFL.

"His best qualities are his intangibles," said Dobie. "His character, his personality, his work ethic, his locker room presence, his on-field presence. He adds so much to a football team. A lot of guys can say that, but he can back it up with his athleticism and his speed."


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