This is Part Three of my “Best Alouettes by Jersey Number” series. My picks have been far from unanimous so far and I hope that we can keep the debate going on social media and in the comments section below.
Here’s Part Three:
20 – Johnny Rodgers – RB/WR – 1973 to 1976: “The Ordinary Superstar” is one of my favourite nicknames in all of sports. Imagine if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner were to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft only to come to Canada to play in the CFL instead. That’s what happened to Rodgers after he was selected by the Chargers in 1973. Recently, I found an old Ted Tevan interview with Rodgers from 1973. During the segment, one listener asked Rodgers why he decided to come up to Canada instead of staying in the NFL. His answer: “Money”. How times have changed. He was a four-time East Division All-Star, a three-time CFL All-Star, he won a Grey Cup in 1974 and he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 1973.
21 – Randy Rhino – DB – 1976 to 1980: It was tempting to put defensive back Irvin Smith (1996 to 2001) here, but I settled on Rhino, who spent six seasons in the CFL (his first five with the Als and he finished his career in Ottawa). With Montreal, he won a Grey Cup in 1977 and he was named a CFL All-Star in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, he was the outstanding defensive player in the East. Rhino also finished first in the division in punt return yards in 1978 and second in 1977 and 1980.
22 – Gene Gaines – DB – 1961 and 1970 to 1976: Shoutout to another great no. 22, Michael Soles. But I decided to go with Gaines. The Als signed Gaines, who was a running back at UCLA, in 1961. They decided to play him at defensive back, but traded him to Ottawa for Angelo Mosca after just one season. After spending eight years with the Rough Riders, he returned to Montreal for the 1970 season as a player-coach. While with the Als, Gaines Grey Cups in 1970 and 1974 (he won two more with Ottawa). He was also an East Division All-Star in 1971. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
23 – Tony Proudfoot – DB – 1971 to 1979: Proudfoot wasn’t only a great football player, he also made a smooth transition to the broadcast booth with CJAD 800. His most memorable on-field moment came during the 1977 Grey Cup at Olympic Stadium. During the Ice Bowl, he had the brilliant idea of putting staples through the bottom of his cleats. His teammates followed his lead and the Als went on to beat the Edmonton Eskimos 41-6. Proudfoot was a two-time East Division All-Star and a two-time Grey Cup Champion. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Proudfoot died in 2010, but his memory lives on through the Tony Proudfoot Fund.
24 – Billy “White Shoes” Johnson – WR – 1981: I want to show some love to defensive back Randee Drew and running back Andy Hopkins, who both wore number 24 with pride. Johnson came to Montreal for the 1981 season after spending seven years in the NFL with the Houston Oilers. Yes, the Als went 3-13 that year, but Johnson had 65 receptions for 1065 yards and five touchdowns and he added 597 punt-return yards. He went back to the NFL with Atlanta and Washington after his year with the Alouettes.
25 – Terry Evanshen – WR – 1965 and 1970 to 1973: Evanshen joined his hometown team in 1965. During his rookie year, he led the East Division in receptions and was named the Eastern Division’s Rookie of the Year. Because of a contract dispute, he was traded to the Calgary Stampeders, but he returned to Montreal in 1970. That year, he helped the Alouettes defeat the Stampeders in the Grey Cup. While with the Als, he was named a Division All-Star twice. He also won the Most Outstanding Canadian Award while in Montreal in 1971 (the second of his career). He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
26 – David Green – RB – 1978 to 1980: I’m not going to lie, this was a coin flip between Green and Moses Denson. Both were running backs for the Alouettes in the 70’s and both spent three years in Montreal. They both had spectacular moments with the Als, but Green’s incredible 1979 season put him over the top, as he rushed for 1678 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player that year. Green was also named the top offensive player in the 1979 Grey Cup, which the Als lost to Edmonton.
27 – Mike Pringle – RB – 1996 to 2002: This was an easy decision. Pringle came over to Montreal in 1996 after a stint with the Baltimore Stallions and Denver Broncos. He was a dominant force in the backfield, as he rushed for over 1,300 yards in all but his first (he was in the NFL for a bit in 1996) and last season in Montreal (he only played in six games). Pringle ran for 2,065 yards and nine touchdowns during the 1998 campaign. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1998 (this was the second time he was named M.O.P. in his career) and he was a CFL All-Star with the Als in 1997, 1998, 1999, 1999 and 2000. If you’re drawing up a Mount Rushmore of the Alouettes franchise, it’s impossible to leave Pringle off.
28 – George Dixon – RB – 1959 to 1965: Dixon was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the ninth round in 1959. Despite returning a kick 95 yards for a touchdown in the preseason, head coach Vince Lombardi still decided to cut him. Dixon came up to Montreal and dominated the CFL. He owns the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game, with 235. Dixon was a CFL All-Star in 1962 and 1963 and he was named the league’s Most Outstanding Players in 1962. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1974 and his no. 28 is retired by the Alouettes.
29 – Jonathon Mincy – DB – 2016 to 2017: Mincy joined the Alouettes in 2016 after a brief stint with the Atlanta Falcons. He became a starter right away and was named an East Division All-Star in 2017. He parlayed that into a stint with the Chicago Bears. He spent part of the 2019 season with the Toronto Argonauts and signed a free-agent contract with the Edmonton Eskimos this winter.
Numbers 30 through 39 will be revealed next Saturday.
(Feature Image Credit: Montreal Alouettes)
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