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February 2, 2018

SAYING GOOD-BYE TO HUGHES

Charleston Hughes during the 2017 season (Photo by Mark Shannon)

The sight of No. 39 busting off the edge to lay a lick on the opposing quarterback has become so familiar over the past decade.

Which is what made Tuesday so difficult.

“It was a tough day at the office, no question about it,’’ acknowledged Stamps GM John Hufnagel, announcing the trade of defensive end Charleston Hughes. “Charleston’s been a soldier for 10 years, a big part of our winning ways. A real professional.

“But it’s a salary-cap era we’re in. And I have depth at the defensive end position. A very difficult decision. We just try to make the right choice.

“What’s the right choice? What’s the wrong choice?

“We couldn’t afford (to sign) as many (free agents) as we had. Charleston had a sizeable amount of money coming to him in the very, very near future and it was either trying to get something or put him on the street.”

On Friday, Hughes was shipped to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a deal that also included a draft-pick exchange.

The Stampeders receive a fourth-round selection in the 2019 draft. The teams also exchange fourth-round picks in the 2018 draft with Calgary getting the 28th overall selection and Hamilton securing the 34th pick.

Hours later the Ti-Cats flipped Hughes to Saskatchewan in exchange for QB Vernon Adams, reuniting him with former Calgary defensive co-ordinator and current Rider boss Chris Jones.

“I’ve been here so long, 10 years, you expect to finish where you started,’’ said Hughes.

“I never really imagined wearing another jersey but I guess I gotta put it my head.

Salary-cap issues and the security of having Cordarro Law, James Vaughters and Ja’Gared Davis all poised to inherit Hughes’ mantle as go-to D-end.

The departure of Hughes follows on the heels of fullback Rob Cote’s retirement and the transitioning of safety Josh Bell into the vacant DB coaching position, making for a shifting dynamic inside the Stampeders locker room.

“Change happens every year,’’ reckons Hufnagel. “You can’t be afraid of change. You just have to be prepared for change.”

One of the constants over a decade of excellence, Hughes departs as one of the most impactful defensive players ever to don the red and white.

“If you really want to go back in the archives,’’ reminisced Hufnagel, “I had two difficult discussions with Charleston because I also released him at the start of the 2008 training camp.

“It was a very tough decision. The competition was so close and Charleston had a bit of an injury at the beginning of training camp that set him back.

“But you could see the potential.

“I did tell Charleston during that conversation he would be my first phone call.

“Well, 24 hours after our first game, Charleston’s back in Calgary.

“Fortunately.”

Now, for the first time as a CFLer, he’ll be returning in enemy ensemble.

“It’s been 10 strong years,’’ he says. “I’ve built pretty much my life here. That’s one thing I do appreciate – all my fans. Just being in situations where I can look in the stands and see my little superfan out there with a different sign every home game.

“My Twitter’s been blowing up … from you guys and the fans. I’ve been watching all the comments.

“I’m a little sad about it. But I’m still playing football.”