Charleston Hughes’ first trip back to the Stampede City was a surprise visit.
He’s not going to catch anybody off-guard this time.
Hughes jetted to Calgary in late June, joining his former teammates at a swanky downtown steakhouse for a private Grey Cup ring ceremony.
“They were like, ‘Whatcha doing here? You back already?’” Hughes recalled.
He is now.
Fresh off a failed tryout with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, the 25-year-old has returned to his old digs along the Stampeders defensive line. Hughes is expected to make his first start in Friday’s showdown against the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Hughes hasn’t seen game action since the Eagles’ Aug. 20 exhibition outing in Indianapolis, when he suffered a foot injury that ultimately sealed his fate in Philly. He was waived 10 days later.
It’s not the first time Hughes has been forced to clean out his locker after training camp. In fact, the product of little-known Northwood University was released by the Stamps last June, only to be called upon two weeks later when injuries piled up.
If history is any indication, Hughes will be itching to prove a point tomorrow.
“I’m always going to have that chip on my shoulder, regardless. That’s just how I play,” Hughes said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk-through, I’m still kind of running. I just try to give all I got every time I step on the field. I don’t really have anything to prove, but that’s just me being me.”
If that means he’ll be the Charleston Hughes of 2008, that’s just fine with Stamps fans.
The 6-foot-1, 244-pounder led the league with a dozen tackles for a loss last season and racked up five sacks. Hughes also registered 66 defensive tackles, five pass knockdowns and two forced fumbles.
The Stamps welcomed back Hughes the same day they signed fellow defensive lineman Tearrius George, who is returning to the Red & White after stints with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins.
Stamps boss John Hufnagel has been non-committal about their status for tomorrow’s tilt with the Tiger-Cats, although he reported with a smirk yesterday “there’s a good chance they’ll be on the airplane.”
Based on the defensive line formations the squad has used in practice this week, there’s a good chance they’ll be in the starting lineup, too.
Hughes and George have been getting the majority of the first-team reps at the defensive end spots, with big bodies Jim Davis and DaVone Claybrooks clogging up the middle. Canadians Miguel Robede, Fernand Kashama and Justin Phillips could also factor into the front-four rotation in Hamilton.
George suited up for the Red & White in 2006, when he had a team-leading eight sacks and four tackles for a loss. There’s not many holdovers from the Tom Higgins era, so George is looking at his second Stamps stint as a fresh start.
“That’s something that’s been on my mind a lot — that I’ve come in here and prove that I can be a good player in this league,” George said. “Whatever I’ve done in the past, that’s in the past now.
"I’ve got to come back and prove myself all over again. I’m a rookie again now.”