CFL Pass

Stamps-Riders pre-season game a special occasion for Dickenson bros

Friday night’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders is understandably a source of immense pride for the Dickenson family.

It is, after all, the first time that Dave will be standing on the sidelines as the head coach of the Stamps while his older brother Craig does the same job for the Riders.

That’s a big deal. A huge deal, really.

But their parents, Bob and Sue, won’t be making the drive up to Calgary from Great Falls, Mont., for the big pre-season game.

Instead, they’ll be in Oregon for what Craig admits is an even bigger deal: The high school graduation of their grandson.

“They wouldn’t miss that for the world,” Craig said. “They’ve got plenty of time to come watch us.”

While Dave is entering his fourth season as the Stampeders head coach, Friday’s game will mark the first time that Craig will be handling head coaching duties for a CFL team.

It’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering the divergent paths the two brothers have taken to get to this place.

While it began in the same place, Dave would go on to a College Football Hall of Fame career as the star quarterback at the University of Montana and then a storied career in the CFL with the Stampeders and B.C. Lions.

Craig took a different route to the Riders head coaching job. After walking on as a kicker at Montana, he’d take a grad assistant gig at the school and then start a journey that took him to San Diego for a job with the Chargers and 16 years working in various assistant coaching capacities in the CFL.

“You always get a leg-up if you played, it’s easier to get the door open,” Dave said. “It wasn’t like either one of us were super talented football players, I just happened to find a position where I could excel. He was a kicker, receiver in high school, walked on in college and made the transition to what’s called a grad assistant.

“Everything about it was very difficult. He broke into the NFL before I did as a coach, which was pretty cool. When it didn’t work out down there, he asked me what’s going on up here and I put him in contact with Don Matthews and Wally (Buono), two of the best to get you started in Canada.”

These days, Craig said about 50% of the conversations he has with his brother are about football, while the other 50% are about family and their parents.

Talking about team personnel is strictly off-limits, but they can discuss coaching philosophies and decisions that come down from the CFL league office.

They’re both voracious readers, too, and share books they’ve read on topics like leadership, among other things.

When Dave was first getting into coaching after his playing career ended, he could use Craig as a resource. Today, that dynamic has flipped, but only a bit.

When Craig was officially offered the Riders job, he was actually staying with Dave’s family in Calgary. He consulted with his brother and sister-in-law about life as a head coach, although his mind might have been made up even before the conversation.

In the time since, there have been lots of conversations between the two. They may coach rival teams, but they’re still rooting for one another to succeed.

“He’s given me a few nice pieces of advice. I’m not going to share them with you because they’re more personal, but just on ways to handle the locker room and things he’s done that have been successful,” Craig said. “The one thing thing he emphasized was that being yourself was really important. However that comes across, as long as it’s genuine and authentic, the team really rallies to that.”

With both of their teams in the middle of training camp, Craig said the plan is to meet up with his brother for breakfast for a quick catch-up on Friday morning but the trip to Calgary will mostly be business.

As for what to expect when they’re standing across the field from one another, they may be brothers, but Craig believes there will be a few notable differences.

“Hopefully I’m not quite as animated with the officials — he gets after them pretty good,” Craig said. “I’m hoping there’s no mics near me when I say something inappropriate, I’m hoping not to do that. He’s an emotional guy, highly competitive, I think he’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met.

“I am, as well, but I think it comes across a little differently. I think you’ll see a different demeanour between him and I.”