Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2014 (2376 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s only fitting the greatest of all time is the final jewel in the All-Time Blue Bombers Team.
Milt Stegall, arguably the best receiver to ever play in the CFL, has been chosen to that position on the Free Press/TSN 1290 All-Time Bombers Team.
Stegall came to Winnipeg in the fall of 1995 and before he was done late in the fall of 2008 he had taken a chunk of the record book and made it his own.
He retired with 15,153 receiving yards which was a record (since surpassed by Geroy Simon) and was at or near the top of almost every receiving record in the book.
"This is cool. It’s humbling. Look at the players that were on this list: Ernie Pitts, Joe Poplawski, James Murphy and Rick House. All great players and I don’t take it for granted that I’m mentioned in the same category as them," said Stegall.
Stegall did not have the luxury of consistency at quarterback, spending a number of his years in the CFL with a list of no-names throwing him the ball. Stretches with Khari Jones and Kevin Glenn were the best Stegall would see but he estimates he caught passes from over 20 quarterbacks during his time in Winnipeg.
The Bombers struggled for a good portion of Stegall’s career and a Grey Cup championship proved elusive.
"I wouldn’t change anything. People ask me if I look back and wish I had taken an offer to play somewhere else and had a better chance to win a Grey Cup. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could have won 14 Grey Cups. But I would want to win them in Winnipeg," said Stegall. "That’s my legacy. Playing 14 years in Winnipeg and building relationships and being given the chance to try and touch some people’s lives along the way. No, I wouldn’t change anything."
Voters selected Ken Ploen as the quarterback, Chris Walby as the offensive lineman, Greg Battle as the linebacker, Bob Cameron as the kicker, Lewis as kick returner and running back, Doug Brown as the defensive lineman, Rod Hill as the defensive back and Stegall as receiver of the Free Press/TSN 1290 All-Time Bombers Team.
Voting began back in September and fans were given the choice of five players at our selected positions as chosen by the All-Time Blue Bombers Team panel, comprising legendary coach Bud Grant, former player and GM Paul Robson, Hall of Fame football writer Ed Tait, Andrew (Hustler) Paterson from TSN 1290 and me.
Legendary Blue Bombers player and coach Bud Grant headlines our panel. Grant was joined by former Bombers player and GM Paul Robson, Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee and Free Press sports reporter Ed Tait, Free Press columnist and TSN 1290 host Gary Lawless and TSN 1290’s Andrew (Hustler) Paterson.
Panelists were provided a statistical breakdown of the Bombers dating back to the 1950s, as well as an anecdotal package of the early Bombers teams, when statistics were not recorded.
Each panelist brought a unique perspective and personal set of criteria. Grant joined the group via conference call from a cabin in the Wisconsin woods while the rest huddled around a boardroom table at the Free Press offices.
From Grant’s gravelly voice emanating out of the telephone speaker, to Tait’s vivid recollections of games and players, to Robson’s cold analysis of a player’s strengths and weaknesses, to Paterson’s views from the upper decks of our stadiums, there were strong opinions all around.
Some players were quickly selected. Others were hotly debated. Sometimes it came down to a clash of eras. Others made it on the merit of championship wins while those without rings on their fingers were often set aside.
The final decisions were up to you. Readers and listeners were the GMs of this team. Here are your final choices.
FREE PRESS/TSN 1290 ALL-TIME BLUE BOMBERS TEAMS
Here is the team selected by voters:
KEN PLOEN*, 1957-67
Every conversation on the greatest Blue Bomber — not just QB — includes this icon, legend, hall of famer. Other pivots threw harder, but all Ploen did was win games in the summer (82, most as a Bomber QB) and championships in the fall (four Grey Cups). Such a gifted athlete, he was also an all-star defensive back in 1959.
CHRIS WALBY*, 1981-96
A nine-time All-Canadian, Walby is arguably the greatest offensive lineman in CFL history. A hometown product, ‘Bluto’ brought a fiery intensity to the trenches and a levity to the locker room. Was twice named the league’s top O-lineman, in 1987 and 1993.
GREG BATTLE*, 1987-93, 1997-98
Voted the CFL’s top defensive player in 1990 and 1991, Battle is the Bombers all-time leader in tackles and fumble returns. He wasn’t gregarious and camera-friendly like teammates Tyrone Jones and James West, but was a difference-maker on the field.
BOB CAMERON*, 1980-2002
An all-star QB in college — he won the Hec Crighton Award at Acadia in 1977 as the top player in Canadian college football — Cameron was cut several times by a number of teams before landing in Winnipeg. He hasn’t left since. Durable and consistent, Cameron was a four-time CFL All-Star who was named the top Canadian in the 1988 Grey Cup.
LEO LEWIS*, 1955-66
His legend as a running back in these parts is well known. What is often forgotten is how dangerous he was as a returner. Still holds the second-highest career kickoff-return average in CFL history at 29.1 yards (Larry Highbaugh is first overall at 35.2) and ranks fourth overall in yardage.
LEO LEWIS*, 1955-1966
The ‘Lincoln Locomotive’ was one of the best all-round players to ever don a Blue Bombers’ uniform. Lewis ranks second in rushing with 8,861 yards rushing but he was also a threat as a pass receiver; his 4,251 yards is the best by a Winnipeg running back. During his time in Winnipeg, Leo Lewis also served as a backup quarterback and a placekicker in emergency situations.
MILT STEGALL*, 1995-2008
Milt Stegall finished his CFL career as the all-time leader in receiving yards with 15,153 (since surpassed by Geroy Simon). One CFL record that should stand for a long time is the 147 touchdowns that Milt scored in his career. Winner of the MOP.
DOUG BROWN, 2001-2011
It often required two players to block Doug Brown from getting to the opposition quarterback. Brown ranks first among Winnipeg defensive linemen with 426 tackles and second with 52 sacks. He was also named to the CFL All-Star team seven times in his career.
ROD HILL, 1988-1992
Opposing quarterbacks feared throwing the ball in the direction of Rod Hill. Hill intercepted a team record 47 passes in just 5 seasons with the Blue Bombers. His best day was September 9, 1990 when he picked off a CFL record five interceptions in a game against Hamilton.
Rod Hill was also a specialist at blocking punts; he sits third on the all-time CFL list with eight blocked kicks in his career. Hill added another two blocked punts in playoff action. A two-time Grey Cup champion.
* Indicates member of Canadian Football Hall of Fame.