CALGARY - Rob Lazeo came to the Calgary Stampeders nearly four years ago and won his first ring, but he walks away with a second one.
During his retirement announcement Wednesday at McMahon Stadium, Lazeo was also awarded the Presidents’ Ring, an honour given to the team’s top leader as voted on by the players.
“For this to be bestowed on me, it hasn’t sunk in as much as retirement,” said the 14-year CFL veteran offensive lineman who helped the Stamps win the 2008 Grey Cup.
“I just found out about it (Tuesday), and it’s pretty awesome.”
Considering Lazeo’s final season, the honour is quite a special one. The 37-year-old lost the starting job at centre to Tim O’Neill out of training camp.
Being a backup didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the game, and he still assumed his leadership role. Late in the season, Lazeo became the starter again, helping the team lead the league in rushing en route to a CFL-best 13-5 record.
“He’s one of the most impacting leaders I’ve seen for a guy not out there the entire time,” said quarterback Henry Burris, who now becomes the team’s oldest player after the retirements of Lazeo and receiver Ryan Thelwell.
“The guys looked up to Laz. It showed you the type of leader he was. Whether he sat on the sidelines and had to watch other guys go out there, he still inspired guys.
“He would say the right things to drive guys and get them excited about the games. When he got back out there, our line took it to the next level.
“A lot of it was because of the effort and leadership Rob brought.”
Lazeo couldn’t contain his emotions while announcing he was done playing and joining Jamie Crysdale’s company, Gridiron Drilling and Blasting.
He thanked Stampeders GM/head coach John Hufnagel, athletic therapist Pat Clayton, equipment manager George Hopkins and a host of teammates past and present.
He broke down crying while speaking about his wife Mindi, daughter Karsen and son Hayden, who was a fixture in the post-game locker-room — win or lose.
“I want to thank my family especially,” Lazeo said. “They’ve been there for me. They’ve gone through a lot. I’ve dragged them all around Canada.
“My wife has put up with all my grumpiness — making me the same thing to eat before every game was a bit of a pain. I can think back to my daughter Karsen as a baby. I would bring her in the locker-room. I was just a young pup. Those are days I will remember.
“My son, Hayden … I think he will miss the game more than I will.”
When the Stamps traded to get Lazeo from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2007, it was a much-discussed move. The Riders got running back Wes Cates in the deal, but clearly it worked well for both teams.
That deal initially was a tough one for Lazeo to swallow, but in hindsight, it was a great one.
“At the time, I had spent eight years there (in Regina),” said Lazeo, who also played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “What you think was the worst time in your life turned out to be the best. My four years in Calgary have been the best of my football career. They’ve also been the most memorable.”
With Lazeo retired and Dan Comiskey not expected back due to concussion problems, the Stamps have a leadership void up front.
“Someone has to step up,” Hufnagel said. “Dimitri Tsoumpas has another year under his belt, and I’m sure he’s relishing the prospect of becoming more of a leader in the eyes of his peers.
“Dan Comiskey assumed a big leadership role that will be missed. There are opportunites for people to step up and say, ‘Let’s get this done.’ ”