Travis Lulay flattered by comparisons to 'Super Dave' Dickenson

 

 
 
 
 
Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson during the teams intrasquad mock game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta.. on Sunday June 5, 2016. Leah hennel/Postmedia
 

Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson during the teams intrasquad mock game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta.. on Sunday June 5, 2016. Leah hennel/Postmedia

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Vancouver Sun

Travis Lulay first became aware of Dave Dickenson in 2002 when, as a freshman quarterback, he led Montana State Bobcats to an upset victory over the University of Montana Grizzlies in the Brawl of the Wild game.

It had been 16 years since the Bobcats had bettered their bitter state rivals for the Great Divide Trophy. Caught up in the exuberance, one reporter from Missoula began to compare Lulay to the greatest quarterback in the history of the Grizzlies and the Big Sky Conference — an unassuming, undersized, bespectacled young man who looked more like a molecular biologist than a great college quarterback.

“Honestly, when I first heard about Dave, I was at Montana State and a reporter started drawing comparisons between me and him,” Lulay explained. “People got upset about it. ‘Oh, you can’t compare him (Lulay) to ‘Super Dave’ and ‘Legend of the Fall.’ ‘He’s accomplished so much (three-time Big Sky player of the year, landslide winner of Walter Payton Award).’ I was a freshman, thinking, ‘Who is this Dave guy (Lulay was from Aumsville, Ore.)?’ People started putting me straight about who he was.”

Born 10 years apart, the two Big Sky stars later moved on to play for the B.C. Lions and represent distinct watershed moments in the history of the Canadian Football League franchise.

Dickenson, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 1999 with the Calgary Stampeders, arrived in Vancouver four years later after two seasons roaming he NFL. He was the most heralded free-agent signing at the beginning of the Wally Buono era. Together, Dickenson, Buono and celestial receiver Geroy Simon began to win like clockwork, turned fan apathy on its head and made the Lions a relevant force in the Vancouver sports marketplace again. They celebrated a Grey Cup in 2006 in Winnipeg, where Dickenson was named the game’s most valuable player.

A decade on, Dickenson, now 43, returns to B.C. Place Stadium on Friday as a head coach for the first time, part of a succession plan laid out by Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel following Calgary’s victory in the 2014 Grey Cup. The Lions are used to seeing Dickenson across the way in various guises since he returned to the embrace of the Stampeders in 2008 — first as a backup to Henry Burris, then as a running backs coach, quarterbacks coach and latterly as offensive coordinator and associate head coach.

No one is too surprised that the football egghead — an academic all-American who considered a career in medicine, but whose competitive instincts made football an irresistible draw — has reached this inevitable development. Dickenson has been in the conversation for previous head coach vacancies in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa — but not in B.C., although Lions head coach and GM Wally Buono said he twice offered Dickenson positions within the organization and was turned down.

“His IQ was always through the roof,” says Lions halfback Ryan Phillips, a 12-year veteran who is the last teammate left from Dickenson’s days in B.C. (2003-2007). “That’s what set him apart from other guys around the league. In his prime, Dave knew what the defence was doing before anybody else. His brain did the work for him. Now he’s on his way to being a great coach.”

“It’s going to be interesting to see him as head coach,” adds Simon, now the Lions director of CIS scouting. “He’s been successful at everything he’s done.”

Lulay, now 32 and closer to the back end of his CFL career, will get the bulk of snaps with 23-year-old starter Jon Jennings in the second pre-season game for the Lions and Stampeders tonight. The West Division rivals meet again at B.C. Place Stadium in the regular-season opener in eight days’ time.

Though Lulay and Dickenson never had an association as Lions (Dickenson left after the 2007 season; Lulay arrived in 2009), they share commonalities: their Big Sky roots, CFL most outstanding player awards and Grey Cup MVP trophies. Dickenson was the starting quarterback for the Lions’ fifth Grey Cup; Lulay was in command for their sixth.

“I’m flattered to be mentioned alongside Dave, and I respect the heck out of him,” Lulay says. “When I first got here I watched a lot of film on him from the old data. Here’s a guy 5-10, runs a five-flat 40 and couldn’t throw it that far down the field. But what made him such a great player was his decision-making, his timing, his accuracy, his read of everybody around him. It really helped me as a first-year Lion, learning the CFL game, just watching film of Dave.”

One way or another, Lulay believes he’ll be following in Dickenson’s footsteps in another aspect, although his resurgence as a player gives him pause to think it might not be for a while yet.

“If you’d asked Dave, while he was playing, would be want to be a coach, he probably would have answered, ‘No,’ ” Lulay says. “But, I know, I’ll be coaching someday, even if it’s my girls’ basketball team.

“I love influencing young minds, having knowledge to share. It’s in my blood. It’s what I do here. I’d be hard-pressed to envision myself as a head coach one day. But Dave probably thought the same. Definitely there are qualities about playing quarterback that lend itself to being a coach.”

As tenured coaches and young hires line up to strategize against the new man, one thing appears certain: It’s going to be fun to see if anybody can out-think Dickenson.

mbeamish@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

Friday | Pre-season

Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Lions

7 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TSN1, TSN 1040 AM

Three things to look for Friday night when the B.C. Lions host the Calgary Stampeders in a CFL pre-season game at B.C. Place Stadium:

The Lions’ loss of Lavelle Hawkins (retirement) at the X (short-side wideout position) might not be as grievous, if veteran Terrence Jeffers-Harris or track stars Kendrick Ings or Devonn Brown can emerge as credible deep threats. All can fly, especially Ings and Brown, but none caught a pass in last Saturday’s pre-season win against Saskatchewan. Geraldo Boldewijn, another top X candidate, has battled hamstring issues compounded by a stomach flu. He is too weak to play tonight.

Even for the most driven of religiously trained athletes, the return from an Achilles injury is never seamless. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian, the 2014 league MOP, was rested when he showed fatigue in training camp and is unlikely to play in the second pre-season game (hamstring). It gives an opportunity for Dyshawn Davis, a camp standout, and former Washington Husky Victor Aiyewa to rev their motors in the race for roster spots. Davis was everywhere last game with seven tackles against Saskatchewan.

Defensive lineman Bryant Turner Jr., a 2012 CFL all-star and prized free-agent acquisition, has had a tough camp with the Lions, given the crop of aggressive, young pass rushers pushing for jobs, among them Darious Allen, a 24-year-old free agent from Lexington, Ky. who seems tailor-made for Canadian football. It hasn’t helped Bryant’s cause that he still didn’t appear game-ready (hamstring) when the Lions broke camp Wednesday in Kamloops.

 

 
 
 
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Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson during the teams intrasquad mock game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta.. on Sunday June 5, 2016. Leah hennel/Postmedia
 

Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson during the teams intrasquad mock game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta.. on Sunday June 5, 2016. Leah hennel/Postmedia

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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