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DeVone Claybooks returns to Calgary Stampeders after diabetes diagnosis

CALGARY — Back on the football field after a diabetes scare, Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks says he’s not the only one keeping a watchful eye on his health.

“My mom is here running stuff, bossing me around like I’m 10 years old again,” Claybrooks said Friday at McMahon Stadium.

The 40-year-old spent a week in hospital before he was released Wednesday.

No cable sports television in the hospital, Claybrooks listened on the radio as the Stampeders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 39-26 last week.

Claybrooks was given the green light to return to Stampeder practice Friday, but he will take stock of his health before committing to be on the sidelines for Monday’s Labour Day game against the visiting Edmonton Eskimos.

“If I’m comfortable enough, I’ll do it,” Claybrooks said. “If I’m not, we’ll do it like we did last week.

“Guys held it down. There wasn’t any drop-offs. We have a high standard here. We understand what level of competition we’re facing this weekend.”

The Stampeder defence has been the stingiest in the CFL in his two and half seasons as co-ordinator. His name was bandied about for vacant head coaching positions in the off-season.

Claybrooks, from Martinsville, Va., is in his seventh season on Calgary’s coaching staff after three seasons playing on the team’s defensive line.

A big man at six foot two and over 250 pounds, Claybrooks has a personality to match. Wearing his baseball cap with the brim at a rakish angle is his signature look.

The players felt a void during his absence.

“We were all on edge about what was really going on,” defensive back Brandon Smith said.

“Everyone has their own type of personality, but the personality that he brings, a lot of comedy, a lot of energy, some of the foul words he uses, we know he’s around coaching.

“We definitely knew he was back today.”

While diabetes runs in his family and his mother Sally Claybrooks has it, the diagnosis still came as a surprise to her son.

“I had no clue,” Claybrooks said. “I had a family history of it, but I didn’t have any idea of it at all.”

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces, according to Diabetes Canada, which also states there are 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes.

Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source.

Claybrooks said he’d been feeling tired and thirsty and his vision was blurry, but chalked it up to working long hours and the forest fire smoke blanketing Calgary at the time.

“Basically just one morning, just woke up and my body just stopped processing the sugar and the glucose,” he said.

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance for treatment, and was told his blood sugar levels were alarmingly high.

“A few hours later, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Claybrooks said. “It’s definitely an awakening. I’ve got to make some life changes as far as my diet and that type of thing.”

Claybrooks says he’s getting treatment for both Type 1 diabetes, in which the body doesn’t make insulin, and Type 2, in which insulin isn’t processed properly, until it becomes clear which type he has.

In the meantime, Claybrooks says he’ll listen to what his body, and his mom, are telling him as he returns to work.

“First practice was great. I enjoyed it and missed the guys,” he said. “Slimmed down a little bit. I’ve got four abs instead of two.”