Glory days

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

John Hufnagel may have spent the last decade touring U.S. football factories with some of the game's biggest names, but he still remembers a little-known college kid who caught his eye before he departed.

"In my last year here as a coach, this tape came across my desk and it had on it a quarterback from Temple, which was Henry Burris," smiled the Stamps offensive co-ordinator from 1990-96.

"I watched the tape and went into Wally (Buono's) office, handed him the tape and said 'I think you should pursue this quarterback.' "

Buono did, securing Burris' rights from the Argos, and because of it, Hufnagel now has the perfect base from which to re-shape the club 11 years later.

More than a month after word of his hiring was first leaked, Hufnagel was formally announced as the Stamps head coach and GM yesterday. He didn't jump out of a cake, burst out of the players' tunnel or emerge from a foggy mist.

The no-nonsense product of Penn State and Joe Paterno simply sat in front of a packed, well-fed gathering of owners, players, media-types and staff to make clear his single-minded focus: To get the stagnant club back to the type of glory days he helped author through the '90s.

He'll try doing that largely by using his credibility and football prowess to give direction to an organization previously pulled in several directions.

And as a former NFL and CFL pivot with a resume that includes working with everyone from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia, the biggest impact he'll have is obviously on the team's leader, Burris himself.

"I would be most proud if this team became as good a team as it was in the '90s and get back to that winning atmosphere," said Hufnagel, whose innovative offences helped Danny Barrett, Flutie and Garcia guide the team to a 93-32-1 record.

Speaking for the first time publicly since signing a lucrative deal that includes part-ownership, Hufnagel directed the highly calculated press conference drawn up by an ownership group still reeling from the embarrassment of letting Tom Higgins swing in the wind.

Hufnagel confirmed George Cortez would stay on as offensive co-ordinator, Jim Barker would direct player personnel and essentially announced managing owner Ted Hellard would now stop meddling with the football operations.

Appropriately, Hufnagel mistakenly praised Hellard for "putting in tremendous time in both the offence, I mean, the business side and the football operations, to improve the organization."

Hellard, who long denied Hufnagel had been hired, admitted yesterday 'Huff' was their dream hire since they took over the team in 2005.

After bouncing around the NFL for eight seasons, including his paid 'sabbatical' courtesy of the New York Giants this year, Hufnagel said he spent plenty of time deciding where he'd go next. At the end of the day his relationship with several team owners and the opportunity to run the show here made it easy.

"I left the city and the team to become a head coach and GM, and it makes me proud to return for that same opportunity," said Hufnagel, who spent 20 years in Calgary as a Stamps quarterback and coach who watched all three of his kids grow up here.

"One thing I am certain -- we will strive to eliminate what I call bad football that cursed this team last year. Somehow and some way we will learn to play the game by the rules, we will protect the football, and we will play an aggressive, solid defence."

No one dares raise the point he's never been head coach of an outdoor football team before. That's because with the experience, respect, autonomy and quarterback he now possesses, there's little doubt he's the best man to help Calgary re-live past glories.


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