Bomber staff finalized

John Kropke, a former all-star player in the CFL, yesterday became the last assistant named to Jim...

John Kropke, a former all-star player in the CFL, yesterday became the last assistant named to Jim Daley's Blue Bombers staff. (Winnipeg Sun/C. Procaylo)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

John Kropke has some pretty big shoes to fill.

As the new defensive line coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he's following someone with the work ethic of an ant.

That would be Jim Daley -- the same man who hired him, and who's now the Bomber head coach.

Kropke, a former all-star player in the CFL, yesterday became the last assistant named to Daley's staff.

And he approached his first day on the job with a sense of humour that will serve him well in the low-salary, high-intensity world of CFL assistant coaches.

"I can't wake up at noon and leave at five?" Kropke asked, feigning surprise. "Isn't there a four-hour rule for coaches? There's no union? I understand. I had to take a look and say, 'You ready for this?' I am. I'm looking forward to it."

An assistant coach at Eureka College in Illinois, an NCAA Division III school, the last five years, Kropke, 39, will be making his professional debut.

The presence of players like Joe Fleming and Doug Brown on the Winnipeg defensive line should help his transition.

'DON'T GOOF THEM UP'

"I just hope I don't goof them up," Kropke said.

If his work as player is any indication, he should be all right.

Known as a blue-collar D-lineman who could play both end and tackle positions, Kropke was a four-time all-star with Ottawa in the 1990s. That's where he first met Daley, an Ottawa assistant at the time.

After a year with the Bombers in '97, Kropke closed out his career in Saskatchewan, where he helped the Roughriders and Daley, his head coach, reach the Grey Cup game.

He also served as a guest coach in Calgary's 2002 and '03 training camps, where Daley was handling the D-line.

"His credentials as a player speak for themselves," Daley said. "But the other thing, he brings an intelligence and a character and a teaching skill that was very evident as a guest coach."

After his playing career, Kropke completed his degree in political science, then got into coaching.

He even helped out with the track and field teams at Eureka College.

But he kept his eye on the CFL, and waited for an opening.

"I love Canada. I love the CFL," the Chicago product said. "When I look around, everything I have I think I owe to the CFL.

"This is a step up, that's for sure. But it's always been my goal to get back in the CFL. They always say be careful what you ask for, it might come true. I'm just happy to be back."


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