Jim Popp says he has fond memories of working together with Don Matthews


The Gift is gone, but will never be forgotten by Jim Popp.Don Matthews, one of the most prolific coaches in CFL history, died three years ago Sunday, June 14 2017 — at the age of 77 years. The native of Amesbury, Mass., spent 22 seasons as CFL head coach, winning 231 games and five Grey Cups.

Matthews also helped Edmonton win five titles in the CFL (1978-82) as defensive coordinator before taking his first head-coaching job with B. C. in 1983. But it is with the Saskatchewan in 1992, Popp and Matthews first hooked up with Popp, serving as receivers coach on Matthews-staff and staff work.

“I have a very special bond with,” said Popp. “He has not left a lot of people in his world, and we have had a very respectful and very good relationship.

“Sometimes, the head coach/GM, sometimes, brother-in-law, sometimes, the father/son. Anyway, we got it. ”

Matthews and Popp also work together on two other occasions. They were at the head of the coach/player-personnel director with the expansion Baltimore Stallions (1994-95), and Popp has Montreal GM when Matthews has served as the head coach of the (2002-06).

Twenty-five years ago, Matthews and Popp led Baltimore to a championship in the CFL with the Stallions become the first and only U.S. club to win a league title. They also have in common a title in Montreal in 2002.

Matthews has been affectionately nicknamed The Don, and for a good reason. He was a larger than life character with a sharp mind, that not only has thrived in the spotlight, but is appreciated to keep the people around him on the edge with his abrasive, no-nonsense style.

“If you weren’t in (Matthews) niche, the things were very good,” said Hall of Fame running back Mike Pringle, who played for Matthews, Baltimore and Montreal. “If you have in its niche, this was not a good place to be.

“It gave us a lot of freedom to be who we want to be on and off the field as long as we arrived, and we completed on gameday. If we don’t, this is when you would see his personality as an authoritarian regime. ”

But the players traditionally liked suitable for Matthews because he has created a sound atmosphere and protected. Once the season began, Matthews ‘ teams rarely in practice, and it has regularly allowed the players to participate in the creation of the weekly game.

But Matthews, who was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2011, could also be ruthless. He has never shied away from must be cut or the release of a veteran, if he was not producing.

“I’ve always questioned when he was to the cause of the stress itself,” said Popp. “He did it because, as he says,” It is a part of my pleasure.’

“We don’t always agree, but it was the beauty of the thing. Don was a very generous person, but he did not want people to know that. He liked to take the attention away from the players. He has always said to the room, I’m going to do things this week, so you guys can focus on the game. They are going to chew on my ass.’ He has done it. ”

Matthews was not above making last minute changes to our strategy.

“Sometimes, he’d drive a coach nuts because they were going to work on a game plan for five days,” said Popp. “Then came an hour before the game and go,” Hey, I was watching the movie and we’re going to do this, “and everyone would be like,” What the heck?’

“It doesn’t work every time, but a lot of times, it worked. ”

If he has rarely shown in public, Matthews also had a softer side.

When he was the Argos head coach, he attended a book launch for the running back/slotback Mike (Pinball) Clemons. Matthews has been held on Clemons’ baby girl, Raven, at the press conference, when she began to squirm. To calm the little girl, Matthews has removed one of his shoes and gently massaging the bottom of his foot, where it down immediately.

“People have never understood, but was very well read,” said Popp. “He read books of all time.

“He helped people in trouble all the time and he even tried to help the players. Now that he was stand toe-to-toe with them, face-to-face and the jaw to the jaw, but he never held that against someone until they have crossed the wrong. ”

And more importantly, Matthews was a man of his word.

“He and my father became very close,” said Popp. “He said to my father one day,” I’ll always take care of Jim, ” and he has proven that to me.

“He was always in my corner, and I always felt the same way about it. ”

Popp said Matthews tried to convince him to come to Toronto after Baltimore 95 title, but he chose to stay with the franchise when it relocated to Montreal.

“He thought I was the maddest person ever when I went to Montreal because he didn’t think this would work there,” said Popp. “But I am, because I’ve enjoyed the construction and the desire to see it through.

“When he took the job in Montreal (2002), this is the first thing he said (Als owner Bob Wetenhall). He goes, ” Before I even answer a question, I just want to tell you I never thought that it would be here. I told Jim that . . . the only reason why I’m here to talk to you guys is because Jim is here.’

“I asked Mr. Wetenhall to just sit down with him for an hour because I thought he was going to see the football guy. It was an interview and it was done. ”

But as driven and successful as Matthews has been, Popp said that he was not above changing his approach.

“Never wanted a young rookie player,” said Popp. “He never believed that could work to Baltimore and after what happened has Not changed his mind, he realized that this could work.

“We’ve got some great veteran of the CFL, veterans, and surrounded them with great players who knew nothing about the league and it was quite a growing experience. This was not a night, makes all this kind of thing, but rather to teach them the right way with a great leadership in the room, and it worked. ”

New England, Bill Belichick — a six-time Super Bowl champion, is considered the dean of NFL head coaches. But Popp only giggles when Belichick made the news for his raw, sometimes abrasive nature.

“This is not because of the things that has not been tried or done in our league and Not been the one who did it,” said Popp. “And Belichick are both extremely intelligent people, but I kind of laugh when this happens because seen that, in fact, heard that before. ”

This report, published by The Canadian Press was first published on June 14, 2020.


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