High praise for Higgins from Esk players

GERRY PRINCE, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

It was arguably one of the worst-kept secrets in a league that thrives on secrecy. The only mystery associated with Tom Higgins turning up in Cowtown was the role the former Edmonton Eskimos head coach would be playing with the Calgary Stampeders.

Reaction to Higgins' appointment to the dual portfolio of head coach and director of football operations from Esks players contacted by the Sun following the announcement was largely positive.

"That's great," offered quarterback Jason Maas, who assumed the starting pivot's role midway through Higgins' rookie season as head coach of the Green and Gold.

"I think it's a great thing for him. I know he's going to help turn Calgary around. Personally, I have a lot of great feelings towards Tom.

"I think he's a great person and a great football guy. I think he's going to do a tremendous job of turning things around down there."

All-star defensive back Donny Brady was also pleased for his former head coach.

"Any time you can get a job, and especially if you've got two jobs, that's excellent," said Brady when contacted at his off-season home in Wisconsin.

"I guess they believe in him. He's a good man and I definitely wish the best for him. But he's still got to play us. We're in the same division so I can't wish him that much success."

Veteran linebacker Singor Mobley was among Higgins' more vocal critics during the three seasons the New Jersey-born coach ran the Esks.

Mobley, too, waxed eloquent about Higgins' new role with the Stampeders and suggested it's likely to spice up the already red-hot rivalry that exists between the two football clubs.

"He'll probably have his hands full getting that team going in the right direction," Mobley said. "The management down there has faith in him.

"I'm pretty sure it will spice up the rivalry. I guess you could look at it like the Edmonton-Montreal rivalry when Don (Matthews) left."

The hiring takes Higgins off the Green and Gold payroll. As part of the contract settlement reached following his resignation, Higgins was to remain on the payroll for the final year of his contract or until he found employment with an NCAA, CIS, CFL or NFL team.

"The agreement we had with Tom was a very good agreement for both sides," said Eskimos COO Rick LeLacheur, who declined to discuss specifics of Higgins' contract settlement. "It was fair. I think the more important things is he's back in football and doing something he loves to do."


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