A special thank you to longtime Montreal sports broadcaster and voice of the Montreal Alouettes Rick Moffat for submitting this awesome article. Rick has told me some great stories over the years and he’ll share some of them with you in the article below. You can find Rick on Twitter at Twitter.com/RickMoffat.
*Please consider making a donation to “Team Proudfoot” for the “Walk to End ALS”. You can donate by clicking HERE.
A wise man once said football builds character. A Grey Cup-winning head coach countered: “it doesn’t build…it REVEALS character.” In these more enlightened times of concussion and CTE awareness the harsh reality may be that football also pounds and demolishes like a wrecking crew.
So let us celebrate the true characters. Unique personalities from the loveable to the laughable, the devoted to the deranged maybe even bordering on criminally insane.
On the field they have all been winners, but this is not an all star team. This is my highly-subjective list of some favourite characters who have had the honour to pull on the Alouettes jersey since the franchise was reborn in 1996. I hope every fan will pick their personal faves
D-LINE: Defense wins championships and the trenches require special men. At tackle, Ed Philion and Adriano Belli can dig in for a goal line stand on my team. Philion while in college once gave the finger to an opposing coach who went on to scout for the NFL’s Bills. Yup, made sure they signed that brash QB-punisher who infamously chirped a CFL opponent calling him “Crystal Gayle”.
Belli smacked QBs almost as often as he’d smack his lips on Head Coach Don Mathews, sideline celebrity guests and yes the “Kissing Bandit” was a repeat offender with me. He may have had the best line of the 2002 Parade rally when he promised “Big kiss to everybody!”
Defensive end: you’ll be surprised by my choice of Kai Ellis. One reason only. In a world where you have to get “jacked up” without being “geeked up”, Ellis had a unique way of ensuring he was ready. The warm tingle of Nature’s call. Who would want to take that pass rusher down in a pile of bodies?
LB: Ky Hebert did NOT start the wing-flapping of ballhawks in celebration but he became known as “The Angry Bird.” As good-natured off the field as he was vicious on the field. What’s not to love about a guy who volunteered as a regular on the popular Montreal radio sex show “Passion” with a feature called “34-play”.
DB’s: Football is a game of rituals. You knew at training camp Hall-of-Famer Barron Miles was going to climb to the top of the goalpost just because it was there. Or possibly to fly an unsuspecting rookie’s shirt from the pole. But for brash swagger set in a perma-smile I’ll select Davis Sanchez. He wouldn’t just give you the shirt off his back—he gave away his game cheque for charity. Such was the bond he felt for the late Tony Proudfoot during the latter’s battle with ALS.
Receivers: The Als have had their share of strutting speedsters, but let’s start with the slowest slotback ever to make such a fast impression he was heading to the Canadian Football Hall. I’m not drafting Ben Cahoon for his tough as a crowbar durability or his clutch postseason prowess.
“Agent 86” make my character team for his secret role as choreographer for some of the most creative endzone celebrations in CFL history. Cahoon was just clever enough to let the Copeland and Cavil’s of the world do the dancing. When he finally succumbed to peer pressure and tried break dancing on his back, Ben showed all the grace of a Galapagos tortoise.
O-Line: Neal Fort and Scott Flory handed out so many “shower pills” in their prime, but they would not just keep QBs clean. They’d keep them guessing. Fort was a cut-up and clown who would insist on a starring role in the WFL—Walking Football League—after practise. Flory wrote up “The Flory Files”, a volume of outlandish gadget plays in which the big men of the trenches could outleg the so-called “skill position” stars. Team bonding through role reversal and laughs.
RB: Mike Pringle owns the league record-book for backs, but as in ’02 I’m making like The Don and starting Lawrence Phillips (pictured). Then already a violent offender, the controversial Cornhusker had already crashed out of he NFL yet still won the admiration of even his most angelic teammates with his bursts of power whether blocking or ball-carrying.
After Phillips’s final pre-season game that year I asked live on the CJAD postgame show if he thought he’d done enough to earn a job? Recall Iron Mike had averaged 1500+ yards 3 straight years after his incredible 2000-yd record season.
Phillips stunned me with his reply.
“I think I’m the best back in the league and if they don’t think so I’ll find a job somewhere else.”
Since the statute of limitations has expired, I’ll confess to having snuck on to the Grey Cup parade float that carried Phillips and several other teammates down Ste. Catherine’s Street. He danced the whole way. Barely said boo.
QB: Anthony Calvillo is a man of unquestioned intelligence, skill and character. No-brainer pick. But if you want your QB from the “laissez les bons temps roulez” school to get the most from the least, then honourable mention goes to Jonathan Crompton for one of the most unlikely turnarounds within any Als’ season.
Kicker? Every team needs one. Damon Duval may have had the brass balls to not only marry the president’s daughter, but also to suggest he botched Take 1 of the 13th Man Miracle FG BECAUSE of the penalty flags. Still he comes up short on my all-character team.
Terry Baker, much-maligned for some misses over the years. He flourished in his secretive role as “The Phantom of Fort St. Jean.” Not just another kicker with too much time on his hands.
The likeable Maritimer pulled prank upon prank, keeping teammates laughing and cursing through the drudgery of training camp. Cahoon would learn from the master and one day inherit the Phantom’s mask.