Two key members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Grey Cup-winning team were in Estevan on April 24 to speak at the Estevan Bruins Sportsman's Dinner.
Head coach Corey Chamblin and slotback Chris Getzlaf entertained the audience by sharing their thoughts on the past season, discussing their football careers, and offering their insights into the Riders' off-season.
Much of their attention was dedicated to the Riders' Grey Cup championship last year. Saskatchewan beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23 in November at Mosaic Stadium to win the fourth Grey Cup in franchise history.
Chamblin, who was named the CFL Coach of the Year, noted that he developed a unique way, at the start of the season, to address his players.
"Every single day, every morning, the way I greeted the team was 'Good morning, champs,'" said Chamblin. "No matter whether it was (after) a win, loss or tie, it was 'Good morning, champs.' And they give it right back to me.
"I always believe that winning is a mindset, that being a champ is a mindset. It's a daily way in how you approach things."
Being a champion is a great feeling, he said, and it's an even better feeling to win in Saskatchewan.
Getzlaf, meanwhile, played a big role in the game, as he had three receptions for 81 yards, and was named the game's top Canadian.
Once the game reached the final couple of minutes, and the Riders were sitting on an insurmountable lead, the sense of accomplishment started to sink in, Chamblin said.
"It was a surreal moment, and I had to say to myself 'Wow, we really did it,'" said Chamblin. "It was a recap of the whole season (in my mind), honestly, of 'We could have been taken out by B.C., and I'm glad we made it by Calgary,'" said Chamblin.
Their appearance came days after the Riders announced the signing of star quarterback Darian Durant to a contract extension – an announcement that was great news to both Chamblin and Getzlaf.
Chamblin, who signed a contract extension earlier in the off-season, said the new pact for Durant reaffirmed his own decision to reach an extension with the Riders.
"With guys like Darian around for a while, we know what core we're going to have, and what we can build from," said Chamblin.
Getzlaf noted that when he first joined the Riders in a trade from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2007, he was on the Riders' practice squad, and Durant was the third-string quarterback at that time. They worked hard to develop chemistry, and it has translated into on-field success.
"If you always have that drive, and you work your tail off for anything that you want to achieve, when the day comes, it makes the success that much sweeter," Getzlaf said.
The Riders have remained in the news during the off-season, thanks to the contract extensions for Durant, Chamblin and others, but also because two all-stars – running back Kory Sheets and receiver Weston Dressler – left the team to sign with NFL squads.
Chamblin said there some excellent talent at the team's spring camp in Florida last month, and it was likely the best camp the Riders have had since he joined the team. He noted that they first spotted Sheets at a spring camp two years ago.
"I expect to see one or two stars out of this year's camp," Chamblin said.
Getzlaf, meanwhile, has spent his off-season travelling the province, and speaking to schools through the Red Cross' anti-bullying initiative. He said he always enjoys speaking to fans in Saskatchewan, as he believes Rider fans are the most passionate and dedicated supporters anywhere.