'Sensei' Higgins taught many lessons

RANDY CHEVRIER -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

It was in one of our last team meetings that coach Tom Higgins pulled three strings of equal length from his pocket.

He asked for a volunteer and Trey Young stood up. He gave Trey the three strings and then pulled out another three strings from his pocket. This time, the strings were all different lengths. After addressing the group of 50 or so players and then sprinkling some 'magic dust' on his and Trey's hand, he asked Trey to open his hand.

When Trey opened his hand, he now had the three different strings while Tom held the strings of the same length. A wave of amazement came over the room.

I have played five years under Tom's command and I never saw this side of him. Needless to say, no one else expected this David Blainesque side of Tom Higgins, either.

Tom went on to explain the reason he succeeded in pulling off that trick in front of 50 sets of eyes was not because he had the will to succeed at it, but rather he had the will to prepare for it. And that was his lesson for the day.

And in that simple moment, another wise life lesson from Tom was bestowed unto us.

And that's what Tom is about as a head coach. Teaching life lessons.

Sure, he could have gone to work each day worried only about X's and O's. But he chose to try to give a little more of himself. And most of us understand that.

From the day Jeremaine Copeland first suited up for the Stamps, he called Tom his Sensei. And everyone knows that Tom Higgins is the least flashy guy in the CFL. Jeremaine was quite the opposite. It made for great headlines every time Cope had an endzone dance. But Tom's mantra last season was, 'Act like you've been there before.'

After last year's bitter loss at home in the playoffs to the Riders, Copeland understood what Tom was trying to accomplish. And this year, I would say there was no player that bought into Tom's philosophy more than Jeremaine. He became the leader that Tom hoped he would.

And he did so for the respect of his Sensei.

Sure, not everyone is open to accepting what he had to say. There are more than 50 guys on a team on any given year. He can't expect to connect to them all.

But from what I know of Tom, like a great teacher, if he can change just one person's outlook on life positively, he will have felt successful.

Tom is the only head coach I have had in the CFL thus far. After five seasons, I have got a good handle on his various 'Tom-isms.' Those are the little expressions he uses year to year, and day to day. The most recurring expression he uses is, 'Faith, Family, and something to do.'

His faith and family are paramount in his life. From the various functions his wife Sharon sets up to show that family is as integral a part of this business as anything else, to his understanding of players' various family dilemmas that occur during the season. He practices what he preaches.

His 'something to do' is football. I, for one, think he is quite good at it. Sure, his story here in Calgary did not write itself out the way we all would have liked, but he did do some great things.

When he came to Calgary, he brought instant credibility to an organization that was the laughing stock of the league. He let his coaches coach and his players play. He won games. The team was competitive until the end, while encountering some peculiar distractions along the way. What more could he do?

In this forum, I have the chance to thank a man who has helped me along my journey, not only as a player, but also as a man. For I realize that I will be a man a lot longer than I will be a player, and I appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to be coached by Tom Higgins.

I remember, after his little magic trick he said, "in 40 years from now, you guys won't remember anything I said, but you will remember this silly little trick."

That would be the same as us saying we would only remember him for his win-loss record and nothing else. Tom, to many people you are more than your magic trick or win-loss record.

Randy Chevrier is a long snapper and defensive end who just finished his third season with the Stamps.


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