“I laid the foundation down for future pass rushers” Charleston Hughes reminisces on his storied career

On the field, Charleston Hughes was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, becoming one of the all-time pass rushers in the Canadian Football League.

But the gridiron dream is over for Hughes after he recently announced his retirement from football.

The former defensive end joined Michael Ball on the Sportscage, reflecting on his legendary career.

Despite not playing last year, the 40-year-old felt he could perform at a high level.

“The thing it’s all about opportunity and the opportunity wasn’t there, so it was time for me to move on.”

Hughes joined the Calgary Stampeders in 2008 and was struck by the game’s speed, especially since he began his time with the Stampeders as a linebacker.

“I didn’t do no research of all the receivers running and moving all over the place, I wasn’t ready for that.”

Hughes would compile a lengthy list of accolades during his time in Canada, including being named a CFL All-Star six times and selected as a CFL Western All-Star on eight occasions. He also claimed a pair of Grey Cups.

One person whom Hughes gives credit for bringing him up north of the border was longtime front office executive John Murphy. During a workout, Hughes ensured that he would steal the show at the event, including Murphy’s.

“I came up to him (Murphy) and kind of cornered him and forced him to give me an opportunity, and he definitely did,” Hughes added that it was the beginning of a great friendship and still considers Murphy to be family.

Another influential figure in Hughes’s career was the late Rich Stubler, the Stampeders defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. The four-time sack leader in the CFL says Stubler helped him by adding to his pass-rushing repertoire.

“He was such a great coach, and he had a pivotal hand in me and just believing in my ability and him believing in knowing what I am capable of.”
Hughes noted Stubler gave that extra push as a player by telling him that his only concern on the field was to rush.

The former Stampeder also received help from a former teammate in DeVone Claybrooks, who would later become his positional coach in Calgary. Hughes said Claybrooks helped the evolution of his game by encouraging him to use the additional pass rush moves.

“He (Claybrooks) gave the confidence to do it that’s for sure, cause at that time where I thought there was only one way to beat a guy, he helped me find that second and third way.”

With a late introduction to the gridiron game, after not starting playing until he was in Grade 11, Hughes didn’t spend much time dreaming of professional football. But after he was a walk-on in college, he began to embrace the future that awaited him.

“When I get full grasp of what football can do and what it has done for me, man I achieved way more than I anticipated for myself.”

During the first decade of his storied career, Hughes suited up in the red and white of the Stampeders, but he would find himself switching the red for green when he ended up in Saskatchewan before the 2018 season. After his interactions as a villain at Mosaic Stadium, Hughes was ignited by the energy from the crowd noise when he was a Roughrider.

“When I’m like that, I don’t think about being tired, I feel like I don’t get tired, feel like I’m completely energized and just keep recharging because of the crowd.”

With his career officially over, it will be only a matter of time before Hughes will hear his name called as a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, paving the way for those who came after him.

“I got the job done when I needed when I was called upon, and I laid the foundation down for future pass rushers.”

Hughes finished his career in 2022 with the Roughriders, picking up four sacks. He now ranks 5th on the CFL’s all-time sacks leader list with a total of 136.

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