Stalwart receivers Greer, Fernandez top ’19 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class

TORONTO — It’s taken more than 30 years, but Terry Greer and Condredge Holloway are together again.

Greer, 61, headlines the 2019 class named for induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday at BMO Field. He joins former Toronto Argonauts teammate Holloway, who entered the hallowed shrine in 1999.

Joining Greer for induction Aug. 9 in Hamilton in the player category will be Mervyn (Swervin’) Fernandez, Jon Cornish, Ernie Pitts (posthumously) and David Williams. Former coach Frank Smith and longtime CFL executive Jim Hopson will enter as builders.

Greer was a 1980 draftee of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, but began his pro career that year in Toronto. However, it wasn’t until Holloway’s arrival in 1981 that Greer became a big-play receiver.

The former Alabama State star surpassed the 1,000-yard mark from 1982-85 and in ‘83 became pro football’s first 2,000-yard receiver (113 catches, 2,003 yards, 17.7-yard average, eight TDs). Edmonton quarterback Warren Moon was the CFL’s most outstanding player that year, but Greer capped his record-setting season with a Grey Cup title.

Toronto ended a dubious 31-year championship draught with an exciting 18-17 win over the B.C. Lions in Vancouver. Greer credits Holloway with kick-starting his CFL career (404 catches, 6,817 yards, 16.8-yard average, 47 TDs).

“No doubt about it,” Greer said. “He saw something in me, he believed in me and looked my way many times each and every game when other quarterbacks before didn’t.

“He could deliver the ball, that was the other thing. When you have somebody back there who can get you the ball, it makes such a big difference. I was grateful for the opportunity to play with a great quarterback.”

While the ‘83 season remains Greer’s best individually, he cherishes the Grey Cup victory much more. However, he’ll forever remember his teammates’ reaction when he cracked the 2,000-yard plateau.

“The 2,000-yard season took me by surprise,” he said. “When I did it, to see my teammates come over and put me on their shoulders going off the field, that was a great feeling.

“Being appreciated by your teammates like that was one of the biggest moments of my career besides winning a championship. That (Grey Cup) is what made it even better. Having a big hand in us winning was very special.”

Greer left Toronto following the ‘85 season for the NFL, playing with Cleveland (1986), San Francisco (1987-89) and Detroit (1990). He earned two Super Bowl rings with the 49ers — becoming the first player to achieve the Grey Cup-Super Bowl double — and finished with 38 catches for 640 yards (18.2-yard average) with four TDs over 50 career games down south (11 starts).

Greer returned to Canada in ‘96 for one season as a coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He currently lives near Cleveland and works as a manager with Hexagon Industries, which manufactures and imports premium fasteners.

“I’m still grinding,” Greer said with a chuckle. “I always loved engineering-type stuff and basically figuring things out, it’s something I was pretty good at.

“I could take a bike apart when I was seven years old and put it back together and that’s kind of the job I’m into now. I’m a guy who can troubleshoot.”

Greer was pleasantly surprised to get the call from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, initially believing he was being punked.

“It was unbelievable,” Greer said. “It was one of those things that caught me off guard, but what a huge honour.

“The only thing I wish is I could’ve been a little healthier. I had knee problems and it bothered me probably after my sophomore year in Canada but I didn’t complain much about it, I just played. Like everyone in camp, I looked great for a couple of weeks and then my knee started bothering me and I’d slide back some. But my time in Canada was probably my better years.”

Cornish, 34, of New Westminster, B.C., spent nine seasons with Calgary (2007-15) and stands fourth in club rushing with 6,844 yards on 1,026 carries (6.7-yard average) with 44 TDs. A two-time Grey Cup champion, the six-foot, 217-pound running back was the CFL’s outstanding Canadian three times (2012, 2013, 2014), its top player and a Lou Marsh award winner (both in ‘13). The three-time league rushing leader played just nine games (622 yards on 115 carries, 5.4-yard average, four TDs) due to injuries in 2015 before retiring.

Fernandez, 59, played six seasons with B.C. (1982-86, 1994), registering 399 catches for 6,680 yards (16.8-yard average) with 57 TDs. The two-time league all-star was the CFL’s top player in ‘85 (95 catches, 1,727 yards, 18.2-yard average, 15 TDs), becoming the first Lion to do so. The six-foot-four, 205-pound Fernandez was a 1,000-yard receiver in his first four CFL seasons and spent six years with the Los Angeles Raiders before finishing his career with B.C.

Pitts played 204 career games as a defensive back/receiver with Winnipeg (1957-69) and B.C. (1970). The five-time West all-star appeared in six Grey Cup games with the Bombers, winning four. He had a career-high 68 catches for 1,126 yards and 16 TDs in 1959 and overall had 337 career catches for 5,525 yards (16.4-yard average) with 55 touchdowns. He also had seven interceptions in 1968 and five in 1969. Pitts was fatally shot Sept. 24, 1970 at age 35.

Williams, 55, was an ‘86 third-round pick of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, but was cut before the season began. After playing with Tampa Bay (1986) and the L.A. Raiders (1987), Williams came north to B.C. (1989-89) then suited up for Ottawa (1990), Edmonton (1991), Toronto (1991-92) and Winnipeg (1993-95). He was the CFL’s outstanding player in 1988 (83 catches, 1,468 yards, 17.7-yard average, 18 TDs) and appeared in three Grey Cups, winning in ‘91 with the Argos. A three-time 1,000-yard receiver, Williams had 439 career catches for 7,197 yards (16.4-yard average) with 78 TDs.

Smith, 87, of Vancouver, coached at the University of British Columbia from 1974-94, compiling a 126-94-4 record. He guided the Thunderbirds to five Hardy Cup titles and two national championships (1982, 86). Twice he was named Canadian university football’s top coach (1978, ‘87) and 47 former players went to the CFL during Smith’s tenure. Smith also spent six seasons as a CFL assistant with Saskatchewan and B.C. and is also a member of the UBC Sports Hall of Fame (2012) and B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (2017).

Hopson, 68, of Regina, was a Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive lineman from 1973-76 before retiring to become a full-time teacher. He later served as Saskatchewan’s first full-time president/CEO from 2004-15 with the club appearing in four Grey Cups (winning twice) while registering record profits over that time. When Hopson retired, the Riders were in partnership with civic and provincial officials to build a new stadium, which opened in 2017.

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