June 26, 2022

How hall of famer Chip Cox helped transform the Alouettes defence

Even though he hasn’t suited up in a professional football game since 2018, Chip Cox believes he can still play. As a matter of fact, when he saw a Canadian number pop up on his phone recently, he thought it was a general manager offering him a contract. Instead, it was a call to inform him he had been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

“To be honest, I thought the guy that called me was calling me to see if I was interested in playing,” Cox said with a laugh.

“And then when he said (I was going into the Hall of Fame), I was at a loss for words because I knew it was my first year (of eligibility). I didn’t really expect that.”

Cox may have been surprised that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but those who watched him week in, and week out probably aren’t shocked. Not only did he spend his entire 13-year career with the Alouettes, but he also owns the franchise record for most career tackles by a wide margin. The 38-year-old finished with 979 tackles, while defensive end John Bowman is second on the list with 480.

The fact that Cox was so durable throughout his CFL career was a testament to how much work he put into his craft. He didn’t miss a single game in his first four years in the league and he played in all 18 games in nine of his 13 seasons. He never played fewer than 15 games in any given campaign.

Only Anthony Calvillo (269), Scott Flory (242) and Bowman (230) played more games in an Alouettes uniform than Cox (229).

The former Ohio Bobcat also owns the franchise record for most tackles in a season (115) and he’s in a three-way tie for most tackles in a single game (13 – at Calgary on July 1st, 2012).

Cox began his career as a defensive back but moved to the strong-side linebacker position (SAM) in 2009. Playing SAM isn’t easy on the body. The position requires players to be able to cover receivers and make tackles on the wide side of the field. Even though he didn’t start there, he eventually made that position his home for a long time.

“They wanted me to play there from my rookie year,” the four-time CFL All-Star said of the SAM position. “I was apprehensive because I didn’t really understand it. It was a linebacker, I’m not a linebacker. It didn’t sink in with me. Then three years into the league, I’m like: ‘Wait a minute. This guy is in the meeting room with us, this guy never meets with the linebackers, this guy never practices with the linebackers, oh this guy is a DB, but he also gets to blitz and do all this stuff’. So, the position looked really good.

“When they first came to me in 2009 at training camp and told me that’s what they wanted to do, it was more like: ‘this is what we need to get to the next level, and we need you there.’ When your team needs you to do something like that, it’s okay. I’m just a pawn, put me where you need me at that point because it was no longer about me, it was about the team. We had already lost (the Grey Cup) in 2008. I had lost in 2006. It was like, those years were about me, I’m trying to figure my career out and try to figure out what I wanted to do. When it came to 2009, it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about the team and what does the team need.”

Things came together for the organization in 2009. With Cox now at SAM, the team won the East Division with a 15-3 record, and they won the Grey Cup in Calgary by defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the ‘too many men on the field’ game.

“I remember how everybody felt after losing in 2008,” said the 2013 CFL’s defensive player of the year. “I remember that very vividly. When we came back to camp in 2009, everybody had a chip on their shoulder. I believe that team probably fought more than any other team we had been on. We were at each other’s throats in practice, in camp. We got in fights on buses and meeting rooms.

“We were all alpha males, and we were all competing to be like ‘this man, we’ve got something to prove.’ We tried to prove it every day in practice and every time we went out on the field. You saw what happened in 2009. We were pretty dominant. When we were down, there was no fighting anymore in that Grey Cup.

“Everybody gave each other a look on the sideline, nodded their heads, went back on the field, and handled business. That’s what really sticks out to me. Because 2008 hurt so bad because it was at home, and we felt like we were the best team. It didn’t happen for us. We honestly wanted to play Calgary again in 2009 in their place and do the same thing to them. We knew how bad it felt and we wanted to return the favour, but they couldn’t show up for some reason (laughs).”

After winning it all in 2009, the Als handled business again the following year by beating those same Roughriders again.

“In 2010, it was like, we know what it is. There was no question.”

In a league with so much roster turnover, Cox managed to play for one organization throughout his career. He made a lasting impact on the field and in the community, which isn’t always easy for a football player. But Cox did it through his performances and hard work. He and the Als had a good thing going and he was never ready to sacrifice it in order to get paid by another team.

“The fans loved me,” Cox told MontrealAlouettes.com. “The organization took care of me, and it was a good relationship. Why ever change it? Why break that? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. My grass was pretty green in Montreal, so why would I see what everybody else’s grass looks like?”

Cox and the rest of the rest of the 2022 class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 16th at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton, Ontario.