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Defending Grey Cup champion Stampeders want to build a legacy of success

06/24/2015 01:01 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - The defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders say they're driven to be remembered for more than what they did in 2014.

The Stampeders have been perennial contenders in their seven seasons under head coach and general manager John Hufnagel, winning more regular-season games (88) than any Canadian Football League team during that span.

However, despite posting or tying for the season's best record five times under Hufnagel, the Stampeders had one Grey Cup win (2008) heading into the 2014 season. The battle cry throughout last year was to "finish the job," which they did with a 20-16 win over Hamilton in the championship game.

Calgary's slogan for 2015 is "Defend Our Cup, Whatever It Takes." If they are successful, the Stampeders would be just the third team in the last 34 years to win back-to-back CFL championships.

"One Grey Cup is great, but the teams we've had, you want to start building a legacy," Stampeder fullback Rob Cote said.

The Stampeders open their 2015 campaign Friday at home against the Tiger-Cats in a Grey Cup rematch.

The Toronto Argonauts (1996-97) and Montreal Alouettes (2009-10) are the only repeat champions since 1982, when the Edmonton Eskimos capped a run of five.

Cote, from nearby Cochrane, Alta., is among a group of seven- and eight-year Stampeders who are proud of their two Grey Cup rings, but feel it takes a cluster of championships to go down in history as a special team.

"Since I've been here, we've been a very successful team and consistent, but with that, 'hey, they have a bunch of wins, but how many championships do they have?'" linebacker Juwan Simpson said.

"Once you start adding championships to the picture, that's when you become great. You definitely want to be a part of something like that."

Hufnagel, 63, will hand the coaching reins to offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson after this season and continue as general manager.

Hufnagel's talent for cultivating depth at all positions combined with Calgary's experience — the Stampeders have returning Grey Cup starters in all but five positions — make them contenders to win again in Hufnagel's last season on the sideline.

Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell established himself as a winning quarterback in his first season as Calgary's No. 1. Drew Tate is one of the most experienced backups in the league.

Running back Jon Cornish won a third straight CFL rushing title despite playing just nine regular-season games because of various injuries.

"I was a captain last year and I played half the games during the regular season. I'm not proud of that," Cornish said. "If I'm going to be selected as a leader by these guys, I want do to that duty well.

"When I was on the field, I did pretty much exactly what I wanted to do. If I can take the things I've developed over time to get me ready for a game and play 18 games, the sky is the limit."

Offensive line changes could impact what has been the league's best running game. Calgary gave up the fewest sacks (26), scored the most rushing touchdowns (25) and led the league in average rushing yards per game (143.9) in 2014.

Centre Brett Jones, the CFL's offensive lineman of the year, departed for the NFL's New York Giants. Left tackle Stanley Bryant signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the off-season.

Laval product Pierre Lavertu, the first overall pick in last year's Canadian college draft, is the heir-apparent to Jones. The Stampeders are banking on Edwin Harrison staying healthy at tackle.

The post-Grey Cup glow was officially over for Cote when he was presented with his championship ring two days prior to the start of main camp this year.

"When they gave us those rings, it kind of signified 'congratulations. Now, what have you done for me lately?'" Cote said. "That (ring) says two thousand and fourteen. We're already in 2015."

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