Huf rides into spotlight

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

The only thing missing from John Hufnagel's arrival to become leader of the Calgary Stampeders was actually riding in on a white horse.

As new general manager and head coach, Hufnagel took control of the Stamps yesterday, outlining his plan for turning the team around.

His message was clear that his leadership will eventually result in the elimination of the sloppy football that plagued the 7-10-1 club this season.

Hufnagel said he has learned a great deal since he first joined the Stamps as a coach back in 1990.

"I made a short speech then and ended it with the statement, 'If loyalty, hard work and long hours had anything to do with success, I would think I'll be all right and I wish myself luck,' " Hufnagel said.

"Looking back and having had the experiences I've had, I realize that statement was a little naive.

"I still believe in loyalty, hard work and trust, traits I hope everyone in this organization possesses. But I also believe the leader has to have a vision. He has to communicate that vision to his staff and his players. He has to believe in his staff and his players.

"Most importantly, his staff and players must believe in him. To that pursuit, I wish myself luck."

The handful of players present at the news conference said they were inspired, if only to know where Hufnagel's focus will be.

"One of the very first things he said was great and we have to address it," said linebacker Scott Coe. "It was penalties and those killed us. It hurt us in every game. It was great to hear him address it right away."

As their on-field leader, Henry Burris is excited to have Hufnagel as the man in charge of football decisions.

Hufnagel has contributed to the careers of several notable QBs and Burris hopes to be another.

"Having one guy making the decisions and judgments, it's a blessing in disguise because we can focus on what we each need to do and not what the guy next to you is doing because you know he will be coached right," Burris said.

"That's been the attitudes of successful teams forever. If you look at where he's been, they've been successful. It doesn't just come with showing up. It comes from hard work and effort. He's going to bring that with him. We have our leader now."

As part of handing over the reigns of Stampeders, Ted Hellard allowed Hufnagel to announce the president would take a step back.

And Hellard feels completely comfortable the franchise is in the right hands as he becomes managing partner instead of president.

"Personally, it's like a lot of weight off my shoulders," Hellard said. "He's very focused on what he wants to do and the goals he wants to accomplish. He knows he has to turn this thing."

Hufnagel's focus over the next few weeks is to evaluate the current coaching staff and assemble his new group, then do the same thing with the player personnel.

The focus will be on playing disciplined football and displaying a professional attitude, and he is direct about how he will get that, either from these players or others.

"If the players in this locker-room can accomplish that, that's great," Hufnagel said.

"If not, some changes will be needed."


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