Copeland swaps cleats for clipboard

Argos receiver Jeremaine Copeland yucks it up with his former QB, Cleo Lemon, during a team...

Argos receiver Jeremaine Copeland yucks it up with his former QB, Cleo Lemon, during a team workout. Copeland announced his retirement Wednesday and joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as their receivers coach. (REUTERS)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:45 PM ET

TORONTO - Of all the playbooks he’s had to absorb and perfect over the years, there’s one that has always endured for Jeremaine Copeland.

It was during his time in Calgary, one of three stops in Copeland’s travels in three-down football, where the slotback earned an appreciation for how George Cortez enjoyed running an offence, getting playmakers in positions to make plays and ultimately putting points on the scoreboard.

“I still have a notebook of that offence,’’ confided Copeland on Wednesday, a day like no other in a league where the unusual becomes business as usual, a day when the future hall of famer went from being an Argo, to announcing his retirement, to ultimately being named as receivers coach for the Ticats.

“It was one of the best offences I’ve ever seen and I bring an understanding of what he (Cortez) wants, from how to run routes to everything that’s involved.”

It’s of little consequence how Copeland arrived in Steeltown, the circumstances behind the decision, whatever opportunity, perceived or real, that may have presented themselves in Argoland.

The bottom line is the move to the Hammer came the right time, a role that seems so suited to Copeland that the Ticats’ young receiving unit will certainly benefit from his experience and savvy.

“It all went together,’’ Copeland said of Wednesday’s dizzying day.

Once he talked things over with his wife, Copeland realized how tempting a reunion with Cortez, Hamilton’s newly anointed head coach who will oversee all personnel moves, would be.

Throw in the presence of Henry Burris, whom Copeland is very familiar with, dating back to their days in Calgary, and the decision became a no-brainer.

Copeland, who turns 35 next month, isn’t getting any younger.

He’s well aware that the older one gets, the more susceptible he becomes to getting injured.

“It’s just a great opportunity for me,’’ Copeland said of his appointment with the Ticats. “I know that offence inside and out. I played with Henry for five years and I’m very excited to begin a new stage in my career.”

Whether it was in Montreal, Calgary and later in Toronto, Copeland was always vocal and was never shy in expressing his opinions, an approach he’ll embrace as a position coach.

“I’m going to be a players’ coach,’’ he said. “I’m going to be myself by being excited off the field and on the field. I’m a young guy and to be starting a career in coaching fresh out of retirement is an exciting time.”

Copeland should be enthused as should the Ticats, who have turned over a new page while looking forward to a season that promises to be an exciting time given the arrival of Burris and the ongoing maturity of Hamilton’s explosive pass catchers, a process Copeland will help accelerate.

In Montreal with Anthony Calvillo leading the way, Copeland would post a career-high season in 2003 when he hauled in 99 passes for 1,757 yards and 14 touchdowns.

In Calgary with Burris spearheading the offence, Copeland had three 1,000-yard seasons.

As an Argo, though, Copeland never had the luxury of a legitimate signal caller, first with Cleo Lemon trying to learn the ropes and ending with Steven Jyles, who never had any training camp under his belt.

“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around,’’ Argos GM Jim Barker, who brought Copeland from Calgary two years ago, said from his off-season home in Arizona.

“He sees the receiver position from the eyes of a quarterback, which made him so invaluable.

Also on Wednesday, the Ticats announced that Doug Sams will serve as quarterbacks coach, Doug Malone has been retained as offensive line coach.

WILL EX-TEAMMATE MANNING RETIRE TOO

In another era at a different stage of his football life, Jeremaine Copeland was once a member of Peyton’s place. As former college teammate Peyton Manning ponders his football future, Copeland isn’t sure if the sure-fire hall of fame quarterback will remain in Indy or ultimately call it a career.

“Right now, I think Peyton is leaning toward not playing,’’ Copeland said of his one-time Tennessee teammate. “He’s had three neck surgeries and that’s serious business for anybody.

“Whatever decision he makes, I’m sure it’ll be what’s best for him.”

When it comes to Copeland, he felt it was best to retire following 11 seasons in the CFL.

“I have no regrets,’’ Hamilton’s newly named receivers coach added. “What made this decision easier was that I’m able to walk away on my own terms.

“Ever since I was five, I laid it all on the line, winning city-league titles, high school, college, professional and the XFL.”

COPE FLIES THE CFL COUP

(A look at Jeremaine Copeland’s career in the CFL, which came to an end on Wednesday when the slotback announced his retirement as a player to join Hamilton as its receivers coach.)

Career Totals

GP   Rec.  Yds.   Avg.   TDs

168  622  10,014 16.1    75

Argo Totals

GP   Rec.   Yds. Avg.   TDs

32    91    1,272  14.0    3


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