February 12, 2011
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame held three separate conference calls with six of its seven 2011 inductees Friday (builder inductee Gino Fracas passed away in 2009). There were a lot of interesting comments made by the likes of Terry Vaughn (pictured above making a catch against Montreal's Reggie Durden in the 2002 Grey Cup), Danny McManus and others. I already covered those by Don Matthews earlier today, so here's a look at what some of the other inductees had to say.
—Chris Flynn: Flynn, a legendary CIS quarterback with the Saint Mary's Huskies, became the first CFL-era player inducted primarily based on his amateur career, thanks to a new rule this year. Flynn said his hopes of getting in were never very high, as he'd always viewed the Hall of Fame as a CFL institution.
"Like a lot of people, I thought it was the CFL Hall of Fame," he said.
Flynn has the unusual honour of going into the Hall with his uncle, former Ottawa Rough Riders linebacker Ken Lehmann. He said Lehmann's influence got him interested in football at a young age.
"He definitely got my family, my parents, my brother and all of us into football," Flynn said.
Flynn received a brief CFL shot with Ottawa, mostly as a special-teams player, but wasn't really given a solid look.
That's something that's happened to countless other Canadian quarterbacks over the years. Flynn said the league might have given him a deeper look if he'd accepted the full scholarship he was offered at the NCAA's Boise State University (former Broncos Jared Zabransky and Ryan Dinwiddie are currently CFL backups), but he opted to stay in Canada and attend Saint Mary's thanks to the chance to play right away.
"Back then, they had just started redshirting, and I didn't have the patience for that," he said.
He's still an avid fan of the CIS game, and he thinks it's improved dramatically over the years.
"Absolutely, I follow it," he said. "The level of play has definitely gotten better; Laval looks like an American college team."
Flynn said he's thrilled to be the first CIS player selected for the Hall.
"It's pretty amazing," he said. "There are a lot of great college players before and after me. ... For them to select me is very humbling."
—Ken Lehmann: Lehmann said he was thrilled to see his nephew come in with him, particularly given the lack of CFL interest Flynn drew. He sees the Canadian quarterback situation as a systematic problem, and one the CFL should address, especially for Canadian-trained players.
"If they don't have the U.S. coaching experience, the coaches up here don't care," Lehmann said.
Lehmann spent most of his career in Ottawa and still lives not too far from there. He's excited about the CFL's plans to bring a new franchise to that city.
"I think there's a great opportunity for them to get a team back here," he said.
He cautioned that the team will have to work to bring neglected fans back into the fold, though.
"It's going to take a lot of effort to get people back."
—Danny McManus: The long-time Hamilton quarterback said making the Hall at the same time as teammate Joe Montford was partcularly special to him.
"It is a great honour to go in with a teammate like Joe Montford," he said.
He said winning the 1999 Grey Cup with the Tiger-Cats remains his favourite career moment, particularly considering what it meant to the city.
"For the city of Hamilton, I know there were a few years where things didn't go as well," he said. "It was a heck of a ride. To get that championship in '99 for the city was extra special."
McManus said one of the coaches he remembers most is CFL legend Ron Lancaster, who he worked with both in Edmonton and Hamilton.
"I had the privilege to work under Coach Lancaster and his son R.D. in Edmonton, and that's really when my career took off," McManus said. "When I got the call from the committee, Ron was the first person I thought of. I wish he could have been here."
—Joe Montford: Montford started his career with the expansion Shreveport Pirates and finished his career in Edmonton, with stops in Toronto and Hamilton in between. He led the CFL in sacks four times and was selected as the league's most outstanding defensive player three times. He said the Canadian game played to his strengths.
"Because the field was so wide open, I was able to use my speed to get out there and make plays," Montford said. "I was able to use my power, speed and agility."
He said his time in Edmonton was a special way to wrap up his career, particularly winning the 2005 Grey Cup. He was wary at first when joining a new locker room, but teammates encouraged him to take a leadership role.
"Coming in as an outsider, you always want to be received in a good way."
—Terry Vaughn: Vaughn kicked off his time in the CFL in Calgary with the powerhouse Calgary Stampeders of the late 1990s, then jumped to Edmonton in 1999 near the start of their most recent dynasty. He said he loved the Labour Day clashes between the two teams, especially as he usually was on the winning side; he pegged his Labour Day record as 7-1.
"Those Labour Day games meant a lot in Alberta, and it was great to be on the winning side."
Vaughn said Calgary was a tremendous place for him to start his career, working with legendary coach Wally Buono and famed quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Dave Dickenson.
"When I got there, it was just a great spot for me," he said. "I got the opportunity to learn from some great players."
Vaughn retired after the 2006 season, following stints with Montreal and Hamilton. He left as the CFL's all-time receptions leader with 1,006 catches, but Ben Cahoon broke that record this past season. Vaughn said he was happy to see it broken by Cahoon, though.
"It felt great," he said. "Records are made to be broken. I had an opportunity to play with Ben, so I know what he's all about. He's a great player and a tireless worker. I'd always admired Ben from afar. To have the record broken by him, I was happy."