By: Santino Filoso
Today we sit down with Ottawa native and former Rough Rider and Renegade RB Darren Joseph. Joseph’s distinguished career spanned six teams and thirteen seasons (1992-2004) and he still holds the CFL record for most special teams tackles in a game (7).
RR: During your career you had two stints in Ottawa, one with the Rough Riders and one with the Renegades, was one more enjoyable than the other?
DJ: Absolutely, though both were memorable. I was 22 years old during my rookie season in ’92 and I was playing in my hometown for my dream team the Ottawa Rough Riders. That was HUGE for me and especially for my mom who had been a Rider fan since the early 60’s when she first came to Canada from St. Lucia. Because of that I’d have to say my first tour of duty was the best!
While you were an Ottawa Rough Rider the team changed it’s uniforms a few times, which one did you prefer?
My favourite uniform was the first one I ever wore for the Rough Riders, with the flaming double R’s on the helmet. The complete opposite of that was the gold red and blue uniform of ’94-95, easily the WORST uniform I ever wore in any sport, at any level. Don’t even get me started on that ridiculous Captain Crunch logo….
What advice would you give to the Redblacks players who have never been to Ottawa before?
My advice to new players would be to try to stay focused here during the season. Ottawa is a beautiful city with lots if distractions for a young football player. I’ve seen several careers disintegrate, especially in the “Hull” days. Have fun and enjoy your time here but stay focused.
What was the hardest hit you ever took?
Hardest hit HANDS DOWN was by Alondra Johnson in Calgary in ’98. I’d been having some success a few games in a row on a search play where I would cut back on the defence for long gains. AJ was watching film and decided that wasn’t going to happen to him. He hit me so hard my chinstrap unbuckled and flew 5 yards in the opposite direction, my body went through a complete change in momentum. He was a the hammer that day.
Did you have a favourite (or least favourite) stadium to play in?
I didn’t like playing at Ivor Wynne. The visitors locker room was old and beat up, the turf was like concrete and the tiger at centre field was hard dried paint. If you got tackled on it you left several layers of skin behind when you got up. The fans were relentless, the stands were almost field level and they were right on top of you in that “dugout” of a sideline and they chirped you from kickoff to the last whistle without let up. Also you had to pray that it didn’t snow late in the season because if it did you could expect a few snowballs in the face. They were great fans, just not when you played for the opposition!
Tell me about your favourite Lansdowne memory
Favourite Lansdowne memory has to be a 2003 game against the Argos when I had 7 special teams tackles and we won the game. I tied a CFL record and I was 36 yrs old at the time so for me that was a big deal.
Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?
I would have to say I’m most proud of the fact that I survived 13 yrs as a RB/FB. I was able to attend 14 training camps and no matter how many guys they brought in to compete with me for a spot on the roster, I always made the team. I’m also proud that 2 of my 3 kids got to see me play. Lastly the biggest thing I’m proud of is that I made my mom proud. She was my biggest fan and she taped EVERY game I played during my 13-year career, seriously, she didn’t miss one!
What was your initial reaction when you heard the name of the new team?
Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the name at first. Keep in mind I played for the other two Ottawa franchises so this is a 3rd name change but it works for me now. I’m just happy that we have CFL football back in Ottawa, the wait is finally OVER!!!!
Will you be going to any Redblacks games this season?
Yes I plan to get to as many games as I can and I’m excited for my kids who haven’t been able to experience having a team of their own like I did growing up.
Why do you think the Redblacks will be successful where the Rough Riders and Renegades have failed?
For me, it’s simple, it comes down to ownership. Jeff Hunt and the OSEG group have shown a commitment to the city, not just football fans. They have committed to ALL OF US and we haven’t had that since the Russ Jackson days. No more fair-weather owners, hit and run people with no proven track record, these guys understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. They have also started by building around not one but THREE quality QB’s, which is a great start. I also like how they understand that bringing local talent home like John Delahunt will bond the team with the community, like they do in Regina, that’s huge.
Maybe the most important question of them all, North Side or South Side?
South Side, I’m old school.
What are you doing for work nowadays?
I have been an Ottawa Police Officer for 10 years now.
Have you ever given any thought to coaching?
I started coaching in 2002 with the Ottawa Sooners and still coach today with the GS Raiders as a position coach. I also still do football camps with the Elite Performance Academy founded by former CFL players Pat Woodcock and Donnie Ruiz. Any young aspiring athletes looking for a place to train with former pros who can help them get to the next level should give EPA a look.
In terms of coaching in the CFL, I am so busy as a police officer doing shift work that it would be tough to be 100% committed to coaching at that level. CFL coaches work hard and put in very long days and unfortunately at this stage in my career, I just couldn’t make that kind of commitment.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your old teammates?
I do keep in touch with several of my former teammates and ironically, many players from opposing teams, the CFL is like a fraternity and we’re all family. It’s nice to see guys that played for $30k a year prosper after their careers and see their families grow. The list is too many to name but I still talk to Reggie Barnes, Patrick Wayne, Brian Bonner, Daved Bennefield, Glen Kulka and Ken Evraire, I also work with DeWayne Knight, Brad Tierney, Jason Mallett and Sammie Brennan….I guess that is kind of a list isn’t it? I’ve also got a special place for Kelly Wiltshire, Andre Kirwan and Andrew Henry, who were the first ones to attend my mother’s funeral in December. When Kirwan heard that my mom passed and he was on a plane from Tampa 30 min later, that’s a true friend.
Thank you very much for sharing such a fantastic view into your career and hope to see you soon…..at a Redblacks game, of course, and not while you’re on duty 😉