British Columbia

B.C. Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks relishes Super Bowl, Grey Cup experiences

DeVone Claybrooks will forever be linked with fiery head coach Jon Gruden and Pro Football Hall of Fame players Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

'You never realize the magnitude of it ... until it's over,' says Claybrooks on winning Super Bowl

BC Lions new head coach DeVone Claybrooks, who was previously on the coaching staff of the Calgary Stampeders for the past seven years, brings his experiences to the home team. (BC Lions/Facebook)

DeVone Claybrooks will forever be linked with fiery head coach Jon Gruden and Pro Football Hall of Fame players Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

In 2002, the B.C. Lions head coach was a rookie defensive lineman with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who capped their season with a 48-21 Super Bowl victory over the favoured Oakland Raiders.

Sapp and Brooks anchored a defence that registered five turnovers in the title game to earn Gruden a measure of redemption against the franchise that dealt him to Florida after the '01 campaign.

Claybrooks knows all about what it's like to play on one of the biggest stages in sport.

"Nothing really beats [winning the Super Bowl], it's one of those unique experiences," Claybrooks said.

"You never realize the magnitude of it ... until it's over. After a few years you realize the moment, that that team is etched in history and you're one of the few players to actually win a championship."

He replaced the retired Wally Buono as Lions head coach in December.

During his 2012 season with the Calgary Stampeders, DeVone Claybrooks recorded 27 tackles, four sacks and two pass knockdowns. ((Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press) )

In the midst of greatness

Claybrooks, 41, also has won Grey Cups as a player and defensive co-ordinator with the Calgary Stampeders (2014, 2018 respectively).

He was part of an elite Tampa defence. Sapp and Brooks are both in the Hall of Fame with fellow defenceman John Lynch. The Bucs also featured stalwart end Simeon Rice and cornerback Ronde Barber.

"You could see the character of those men," Claybrooks said.

"I'm where I am now and have been blessed because of the journey those guys took me on. They took me under their wing, showed me how to be a pro and taught me how to understand the game."

And it didn't take long for the six foot, three inch-tall, 300-pound Claybrooks to realize he was in the midst of greatness.

Claybrooks said one of the most vivid memories he has of Tampa's Super Bowl win -- and also Calgary's two Grey Cups -- was the raw emotion that came afterward.

"You see vulnerability," he said.

"You see these big 300-pound men break down and become emotional because it's the culmination of all your hard work."

He adds that being able to share that experience with his family made the moment all the more rewarding.

"I'll never forget the look on my mom's face after [Calgary's Grey Cup win over Ottawa last year in Edmonton]."

DeVone Claybrooks spent 11 years playing defensive tackle in the NFL, CFL, and in Europe.

Winning mementos

Claybrooks has two big reminders of his Super Bowl win. There's the Bucs' championship ring, of course, and a gold football the NFL gave players of each winning team in 2016 to commemorate the game's 50th anniversary.

The NFL also presented Claybrooks' high school with a gold ball and financial donation. Claybrooks had the ball in his Calgary office and will have it on display at his new digs in Vancouver.

"It's definitely a great piece of history but it's also a crazy validation to your kids that, 'Oh my God, coach has played in the Super Bowl."' Claybrooks said.

"You can definitely get their ear to understand the hard work that goes into it."

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