As mentioned earlier, the 2011 Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductees were set to be announced early Friday morning. However, that timeline got bumped up; TSN put together a complete list of the players and builders who were set to be inducted, and the league's now issued its own release confirming that. Four former CFL players will be leading the way; Hamilton quarterback Danny McManus (pictured above making a pass under pressure from B.C.'s Herman Smith in 2002) and defensive end Joe Montford, long-time Edmonton and Calgary receiver Terry Vaughn and famed Ottawa linebacker Ken Lehmann. Saint Mary's quarterback Chris Flynn becomes the first player selected primarily for his amateur career in Canadian Interuniversity Sport competition, and Don Matthews (as he should be) and Gino Fracas are the two builders inducted (Fracas also had a notable CIS and CFL playing career, but he's most remembered for his time as a CIS coach with the Alberta Golden Bears and Windsor Lancers).
If the report is accurate, it looks like a pretty good class from this standpoint. For one thing, it's nice to see people from a wide variety of positions and backgrounds selected; both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball are well-represented, and adding a CIS player and a CIS coach will definitely help the Hall feel a little more like the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and less like the CFL Hall of Fame. The class is larger than the 2010 or 2009 versions thanks to the addition of a second builder slot and one for an amateur player, but that's a good thing in my mind; I'm an advocate of a big hall that represents as much of Canadian football history as possible, There are plenty of deserving players and builders out there who haven't yet been inducted, and increasing the size of each class should help with that.
Here's some information on each of the inductees:
—Danny McManus: McManus had a great college career with Florida State, but was largely passed over in the 1988 NFL draft, going in the 11th round to Kansas City. He wound up as their third quarterback, never saw game action and was released in 1989. In 1990, he headed north of the border and signed with Winnipeg to back up Matt Dunigan. The Bombers won the Grey Cup that year and McManus even threw a touchdown pass in relief duty during their 50-11 blowout of Edmonton, but he didn't see consistent starts during his time in Winnipeg. He left in 1993 for B.C., where he mostly backed up Kent Austin, but he came on as an injury replacement in the 1994 Grey Cup and led the Lions to a 26-23 victory. He finally earned the starting job in B.C. in 1996, but the Lions lost to Edmonton in the playoffs. McManus must have followed the "If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em," rule, joining the Eskimos as a free agent in 1996; he took them to the Grey Cup game that year, but fell to Doug Flutie and the Matthews-led Argonauts. The 1997 season saw the Eskimos win their division, but they lost to Saskatchewan in the West Final.
It was Hamilton where McManus' career really took off. He joined the Tiger-Cats as a free agent in 1998 and would go on to be their starting quarterback for most of the next eight years. He took them to the Grey Cup that year, but they lost 26-24 to Jeff Garcia and the high-powered Calgary Stampeders. However, McManus and the team rebounded the next year with a victory over the Stampeders in the 1999 Grey Cup. In 2000, he set a CFL record by throwing for 4,000 yards in six straight seasons, and added to it with 4,000-plus yard campaigns in the next two seasons. The team went into a bit of a slump, though, and hit a particular low point with a 1-17 season in 2003. McManus and the Tiger-Cats rebounded in 2004, though, going 9-8-1 under Greg Marshall (the current Western coach, not the current Saskatchewan coach) before falling to Toronto in the playoffs. He struggled the next year and didn't accomplish much as a backup in his final season, 2006 with Calgary, but his career records and numbers are still certainly impressive; he holds just about every Tiger-Cats' record and remains eighth-all time amongst all professional quarterbacks in passing yardage with 53,255 yards.
—Terry Vaughn: A graduate of the University of Arizona, Vaughn was one of the CFL's top receivers for an impressive period of time. He starred with Calgary from 1995 to 1998 and then headed north to Edmonton from 1999 through 2004. He won Grey Cups with the Stampeders in 1998 and then again with the Eskimos in 2003, and he finished his career with strong seasons in Montreal and Hamilton. When Vaughn hung up his cleats in 2006, he was the CFL's receptions leader with 1,006 catches and fourth in all-time receiving yards with 13,746. The former record stood until Ben Cahoon broke it this season.
—Joe Montford: After playing NCAA Division I-AA football at South Carolina State, Montford didn't attract much attention from the NFL. He joined the CFL in 1995 with the expansion Shreveport Pirates, proving one of the few bright points in that franchise's history. When the CFL's U.S. expansion era ended, Montford headed north to Hamilton. He turned into a key part of the franchise for them from 1996 through 2001, and was named a league all-star for four straight years from 1998 on. Perhaps his most impressive season came during their 1999 Grey Cup year, when he recorded 26 sacks, only .5 behind James Parker's CFL record. Montford headed to Toronto in 2002 and was selected as a league all-star again, but was traded back to Hamilton before the 2003 campaign. He put up two more solid years with them before a trade to Edmonton in 2005, where he played a crucial role in the Eskimos' double-overtime Grey Cup victory. Montford retired after taking a smaller role with the team in 2006.
—Ken Lehmann: Lehmann, who played his college ball at Cincinnati's Xavier University, was a successful linebacker and defensive lineman for the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1960s, earning the league's lineman of the year award in 1968. He helped Ottawa to Grey Cup victories in 1968 and 1969 before finishing his career with B.C. in 1972.
—Chris Flynn: Flynn represents the Hall's first player inducted primarily for his amateur career during the CFL era, and he's definitely a worthy candidate for that honour. During his time at Saint Mary's, he won the Hec Crighton Trophy (CIS most outstanding player) three straight years from 1988 to 1990, and led the Huskies to Vanier Cup finals in 1988 and 1990. Like many Canadian quarterbacks over the years, he never got much of a shot at the pro level; that can't be remedied retroactively, but honouring him for his amateur career is notable on its own.
—Gino Fracas: Fracas had an outstanding CIS playing career as a linebacker and running back with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, and he helped them win Yates Cup championships in 1952 and 1953. He was drafted by Ottawa in the first round of the 1954 CFL draft, but spent his CFL career with Edmonton from 1955 to 1962. He earned Grey Cups with them in 1955 and 1956. However, it's what Fracas did after his playing career that's perhaps most notable; he coached the University of Alberta Golden Bears from 1963 to 1967, taking them to a Vanier Cup game in 1965 and a Vanier championship in his final season with a 10-9 win over McMaster. That was also the first season a playoff-based national championship was instituted. Fracas then went to the Windsor Lancers, leading them from 1968 to 1986.
—Don Matthews: I've already written plenty on The Don's merits, but suffice it to say that he's a more than worthy candidate. He's the CFL's second-winningest coach of all time and won five Grey Cups during an incredible coaching career with B.C., Toronto, Saskatchewan, Baltimore and Montreal. The Canadian Football Hall of Fame definitely needs to include him, and it's great to see that they're planning to do so this year.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on this year's group in the comments below, and check back here tomorrow for further coverage of this year's inductee class!