Nine days before Christmas, the new old quarterback of the CFL's ninth team sounded jolly, but not old.
How did that loaded three-letter pejorative get in there twice? Kevin Glenn's take on joining the expansion Ottawa Redblacks was not just good spin, but a tight spiral. It was like he's been around the CFL since the last time a new Ottawa franchise took root.
Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins kept his word during the first phase of Monday's CFL expansion draft by adding a seasoned quarterback, the 34-year-old Glenn, and a younger yet not completely callow pivot, 24-year-old Thomas DeMarco from the B.C. Lions. The decidedly conservative approach might prove to be a long-term handcuff, but the Redblacks are set up to kick off in 2014 with a passer who's played more than 200 CFL games. It puts Glenn farther away from that elusive Grey Cup ring, but he is warm to the challenge.
"It's something new but it doesn't mean that it's going to be impossible to work through," said Glenn, who helped the Stampeders win the West Division last season when he rotated through with the younger Drew Tate, 30, and Bo Levi Mitchell, 23. "The situation is a lot different than coming back to a team that you played on five, six, seven years. I think everyone is going to take it serious and do whatever he can to put exciting football back in Ottawa. Everybody's going to come to mini-camp and to training camp with the mindset to learn as much as they can as they fast as they can.
"There will be people saying it takes a couple of years," said Glenn, who started in the Stampeders' 2012 Grey Cup loss to Toronto and was injured while leading Winnipeg to a win in the '07 Eastern final, before the Blue Bombers lost to Saskatchewan a week later. "but as we've seen in this league, you can win depending on who you have and what type of football you're playing at the end of the season. You don't have to win 14, 15, 16 games to win the Grey Cup. As a veteran quarterback, one thing I want to bring is that winning attitude."
The Redblacks are far from done stocking their roster, since free agency begins Feb. 15. The consensus is that Ottawa will come into the CFL in 2014 in far better shape than the short-lived Renegades did in 2002.
The respect Glenn elicits as a 13-year veteran also gives him the cachet to chat up veteran CFLers among the league's inordinately large free-agent crop.
"I have no qualms about going out and talking about a franchise," the Detroit native said. "Just because I'm new doesn't mean I don't know anything about it. I'm going off the coaches that I'm familiar with and the actual guys that were picked in this draft whom I'm very familiar with. After watching this for three rounds, I feel as though we could be very competitive. Friends of mine — and don't get it twisted — there are guys who are going to be free agents who are going to be calling and asking, 'do you think this is going to work?' "
DeMarco made five starts last season for B.C. while replacing an injured Travis Lulay. The Palm Desert, Calif., resident has only been in the CFL for two seasons, so he knows his apprenticeship is not yet complete. The maturation period is long for passers who have to adjust to accounting for that 12th defender.
"At age 28 to 35, you're in your prime and understand what you can do and who you are," he said. "I was blessed in B.C. to be behind a guy like Travis Lulay who was a great coach, mentor. That made it easy to understand it was his team because you respected him as a person and a player. I can see that Kevin's a stand-up guy and he's got a good attitude."
Glenn was sanguine about Calgary leaving him unprotected, which under the terms of the expansion, helped the Stampeders retain more of that precious non-import talent. He stated that even during the Stamps' exit meetings four weeks ago following their home loss in the West final to Saskatchewan, coach John Hufnagel couldn't definitely say who among the trio would be going.
"I know fans and everybody across Canada wanted the protected lists to be revealed," Glenn said. "But I kept telling them, you don't always want to know, as players, what goes on behind closed doors. You don't worry about that kind of stuff. Sometimes as a player I can put the shoe on the other foot. Bo Mitchell is a younger guy and had a lot of success and they had invested a lot of time in him, two years, to the point where they didn't want to let him go. I never let it get personal with me.
"It basically came down to, we'd have to wait until Dec. 16. As a player, you have to respect that."
By the look of it, Ottawa made it out well at stocking up non-imports, with the biggest scores likely being defensive tackle Keith Shologoan, safety Eric Fraser, fullback Patrick Lavoie and fullback John Delahunt. (Delahunt, a Kanata, Ont., native, once played junior football with the Ottawa Sooners, whose practice field is close to Lansdowne Park.) Desjardins, a former Hamilton GM, also took chances on several veterans who might need coaxing to relocate to eastern Ontario.
DeMarco has been through a similar experience. Following his junior college stint in California, he transferred to Old Dominion University when it was launching its Football Championship Subdivision-level team in 2009. The Monarchs went 9-2 that fall to set a NCAA mark for the best record by a first-year team. Coincidentally, president of ODU at the time it decided to revive football was Roseann O'Reilly Runte, who is now president of Carleton University, where the Redblacks are expected to hold training camp. Talk about coming full circle.
"Everyone's used to being a certain player on the team they were on," DeMarco said. "We had to blend junior college guys with redshirt freshmen and guys from all different parts of the U.S.; we came together for one common goal, being winners. When you're there for one common purpose it makes it that much easier to move forward.
"You need a collective team of winners," DeMarco added. "You don't necessarily have to have a history of Grey Cups or of national championships to have a run at it."
On paper, Ottawa has a chance to be competitive in Year 1, its honeymoon phase. Some good humour will be needed to ride out the rough patches. Glenn has that covered.
"Somebody texted me saying I was the oldest first-round draft pick," he chuckled. "I think the CFL and the Redblacks did a great job making it interesting and keeping people in suspense."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.
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- Kevin Glenn
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- Marcel Desjardins
- Thomas DeMarco