Barker gets special surprise at awards luncheon

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

VANCOUVER — Jim Barker and Jeremaine Copeland never have sat down together for dinner, just the two of them.

Barker did not know it, but about 80 feet away from where he sat during the Canadian Football League’s coach of the year luncheon with several hundred CFL types, Copeland was at his own little table, eating lunch behind a curtain.

It was part of the clandestine plan the Argos and league had for the veteran Argos slotback, who was flown in late on Thursday night from Toronto to present the Annis Stukus Trophy to Barker.

“I got a call a couple of days ago (from Argos staffer Beth Waldman) and I was asked if I could come out for the ceremony,” Copeland said. “At that point, we did not know what was going to happen, but just to be ready. If he was going to win, I said I would be glad to give a speech.”

Once the Argos had a firm idea Barker was going to win, Copeland was on a plane. He was taken right to his hotel room and had to stay there, lest Barker see him and spoil the surprise.

Barker and Copeland go back to their days together in the 2000 season in the defunct XFL. Since, they have worked together in Montreal, Calgary and Toronto. Now, the relationship is such that players often refer to Copeland as Barker’s son.

“He has always been a father figure to me,” said Copeland, who was headed back to Toronto on a Friday afternoon flight. “It’s not a front, not something I put on for show. When I started in the XFL, I remember him telling my parents: ‘As long as Jeremaine continues to grow, he will always have a job with me.’

“He has stuck by his word since. He has helped me grow and I love him for it.”

Barker was floored that Copeland was there to hand him the award. As for dinner, Barker said he will wait until Copeland’s playing days are over.

“To see him come out ... it’s just rare when you have a player that special to you,” Barker said. “And then to have him present this award, I can’t put it in words.”


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