Finally, Damon Allen has one career achievement he doesn’t have to worry about losing.
Allen has watched Montreal Alouettes star Anthony Calvillo break three of his all-time passing records this season. But on Sunday, Allen was named for induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in September 2012, which no one can take from him.
“You understand records are meant to be broken,”’ Allen said Monday during a conference call. “This shows the dedication, commitment and level of determination you have as an individual to go out and play well.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is having won four Grey Cups with four different teams. Not many guys who are in the Hall of Fame can say that.”
Joining Allen for enshrinement will be former players Milt Stegall, Tyrone Jones (posthumously) and Jack Abendschan. Former CFL tailback Eric Lapointe goes in as a Canadian university player while former Calgary Dinos coach Peter Connellan and B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner David Braley were named as builders.
Allen, 48, spent 23 years in the CFL and retired following the 2007 season as the league leader in passing yards (72,381), touchdowns (394) and completions (5,158). However, Calvillo broke all three marks this season, recently surpassing Allen as pro football’s all-time passing leader.
Allen remains the top CFL’s rushing quarterback with 11,920 yards and third overall all-time behind Mike Pringle (16,425 yards) and George Reed (16,116).
For many, Allen’s induction comes at least a year too late. And while Allen considers himself a first-ballot Hall of Famer, he was still taken back by the news.
“It humbles you because you realize there are so many great players who played this game and this puts you in a unique class,” Allen said. “It’s very special and mind-boggling.”
Stegall, 41, spent his entire 14-year career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The nine-time all-star was the league’s outstanding player in ’02 and retired after the ’08 season as the career leader in receiving yards (15,153) and TD catches (144), although B.C. Lions slotback Geroy Simon is on pace to surpass Stegall’s yardage mark this year.
The colourful Stegall was always popular with reporters for his ability to wax poetic, especially regarding the only guarantees in life.
“The only six guarantees in this world are death, taxes, trouble, Milt Stegall being on time, Milt Stegall being pretty and Milt Stegall being in tip-top shape,” he’d often say.
Now there’s a seventh: Milt Stegall being a Hall of Famer.
“This is the best possible guarantee because I never thought I’d ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Stegall said. “I was just happy when I got to the CFL to be playing receiver because my first three years with the Cincinnati Bengals I was a special-teams guy who was on and off the roster.
“The fact I’m being inducted into the Hall of Fame is great. But you know me, when I get inducted I’ll be on time, I’ll be in shape and I’ll be looking good.”
Jones was an outspoken linebacker during his 10-year CFL career, spent mostly with Winnipeg (1983-’87, 1989-’91). A four-time all-star, Jones was the league’s top defensive player in ’85 and helped the Bombers win two Grey Cups.
Jones was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in August 2005 and died June 10, 2008 at the age of 46.
Abendschan spent his entire 11-year CFL career with Saskatchewan, playing guard while also serving as the team’s kicker. When he retired after the ’75 season, the five-time All-Canadian was the last of the old-time kickers who also played a regular position.
“It’s a great honour and something I didn’t expect,” Abendschan said. “I’m just thrilled people remember I blocked and kicked at one point.”
Lapointe, 37, ran for 4,666 yards during an illustrious career at Mount Allison. After being named the CIS top rookie in ’95, the native of Brossard, Que., twice captured the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canadian university football’s top player.
Lapointe played in the CFL with Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal from ’99 to 2006 but said his university years were his most enjoyable.
“The college years are years you’re playing with your friends and nobody is being paid,” he said. “You’re there for pure passion and that’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Connellan led Calgary to eight Canada West titles and four Vanier Cups during his 13-year tenure. He posted a 70-32 regular-season record and 16-6 in the playoffs and twice was CIS coach of the year (1977, ’85).
“We’re all very familiar with many who are in the Hall of Fame and to be inducted and included in that group is almost overwhelming,” he said.
Braley, 70, first became a CFL owner with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from ’87 until 1990. The Hamilton businessman purchased the Lions in ’97 before adding the Argos last year. Braley was also appointed to the Senate on May 20, 2010.
“I never thought an owner would have an opportunity to be inducted,” Braley said. “The pleasure of being involved in football for the last 25 years has been all mine.”