Motley crew for Blue

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

Upon first glance, new Winnipeg Blue Bomber defensive co-ordinator Rod Rust looked every one of his 76 years, hobbling into the room with the help of a pair of crutches.

And then you find out how he hurt himself: wiping out on a patch of ice while riding his bike near his home in Ocean City, N.J.

So much for the idea the old guy won't be able to keep up.

Rust, a veteran of more than 40 years as a coach, was one of five new assistants introduced by Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley yesterday.

DEFENSIVE GURU

Known as a defensive guru who's helped his teams win a Grey Cup and reach a Super Bowl, Rust says he's back in the CFL for the same, old reason: He loves coaching football.

"It's not a matter of whim, or killing time or anything," Rust said yesterday. "If I just wanted to kill time, I'd probably learn how to play checkers or something. I'm here to work."

Rust and the rest of this group certainly have their work cut out for them.

The Bombers are coming off three seasons of steady decline, finishing last year at 7-11 and out of the playoffs.

The collapse cost head coach Dave Ritchie his job, mid-season, and yesterday the gutting of Ritchie's staff was completed -- only receivers coach Bobby Dyce remains.

Daley's crew is as varied as they come.

Former backup CFL quarterback Willie Gillus will be making his pro debut, handling the Bombers quarterbacks and running backs.

At the other end of the spectrum is Rust, who's spent the last 33 years in the pros.

It only seems like he's been coaching since they invented the forward pass, starting out at the University of New Mexico in 1960, winning a Grey Cup as Montreal's D-co-ordinator in 1974 and helping New England reach the NFL's championship game in '86.

"The real attraction is the fact there's urgency to it," Rust said. "You're around a bunch of dynamic, young people that have real aspirations. And then if you can contribute to their success, it's just a whole lot of fun."

Rust had spent the last three years back in the NFL, either breaking down game film or serving as an advance scout.

But he itched to get back on the sidelines, and called Daley in December.

"I coached against him for the better part of 10 years," Daley said. "His defences always bothered us. He plays very aggressively, very smartly. He has a style of coaching I've admired for a long time."

Daley's other key hire was that of former Bomber offensive line coach Mike Gibson, who returns as offensive co-ordinator.

Gibson spent the last three seasons at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, part of a 21-year, U.S. college career.

It's a reunion, of sorts -- Gibson was Winnipeg's O-line coach, Daley Calgary's D-line boss, in the 2001 Grey Cup.

"His offensive line was as well-schooled and well-prepared as I've ever coached against," Daley said. "He was one of two guys, Rod Rust being the other, who I talked to immediately after being hired. I think he's going to be a dynamite offensive co-ordinator."

Rounding out Daley's staff are Dave Easley, who comes over from the Ottawa Renegades to handle the defensive backs, and Scott Fawcett, former head coach at Mount Allison University, who'll coach special teams.

Daley says he'll add a defensive line coach in May, just before training camp.


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