Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 27/11/2015 (1520 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two of the most ferocious and loquacious players to ever pull on a Winnipeg Blue Bombers uniform have joined the hallowed crew in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Defensive tackle Doug Brown and linebacker James West were announced Friday as part of the 2016 CFHOF class — along with two other Toronto Argonauts legends, receiver Derrell Mitchell and defensive lineman Rodney Harding — at the CFL Alumni Legends Luncheon at the Convention Centre.
Don McDonald of Saskatoon, a long time executive in junior football and a director with the Hilltops football club, was named in the builder category.
The class will be formally inducted next season and have their busts displayed prominently among the legends of the three-down game at the shrine in Hamilton.
Both men were dominant defenders for the Bombers; Brown from the interior of the defensive front, West from his linebacker position.
And as much as they loved to blow people up on the field, they were just as adept in dealing with the media before and after games. In fact, if there is an all-time CFL quotes team, both West and Brown would have starting spots.
"It’s a little surreal, definitely," said Brown of being added to the hall of fame. "It’s the big-boys club. When you spend the amount of time that I did playing football this is a certain degree of validation. Any time in your life you want to do something you are passionate about, you enjoy it and hopefully you are good at it. I couldn’t think of a better way to close the door once and for all with an honour and recognition like this.
"There’s a lot of unbelievable talented and accomplished builders and players in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and you’re joining the club with them. It’s like getting your green jacket."
Interestingly, while both West and Brown are remembered for the days as Bombers, their careers officially began elsewhere in the Canadian Football League.
After starring at Texas Southern University and a tryout with the Oakland Raiders, West — who now works for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Atlanta — first came north to the Calgary Stampeders. He was good, too, earning West Division All-Star honours in 1983. He left for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL in 1985 and returned to the Bombers in September of that year as a free agent. It was here where he helped solidify an already-dominant defence and would meet one of his great friends in life, the late Tyrone Jones.
Together they were part of a defensive crew that talked the talk and walked the walk.
"Some people just come into your life and it’s like it was meant to be," said West of Jones. "Me and Tyrone spent every minute together. I mean, even when we went on the road we were roommates. And you know if you live with somebody as a roommate there are times you want to get away from that person. I never got tired of Tyrone Jones. And to this day his family is still in touch with me. We’re still close like that.
"I even came to his hall of fame induction (Jones was inducted in 2012, four years after his passing). Those were the greatest days of my life, playing with Tyrone Jones and those guys like Greg Battle, Delbert Fowler, Chris Walby... what a wonderful bunch of guys."
Brown, meanwhile, was drafted fifth overall by the Calgary Stampeders in 1997 but actually began his pro football journey with the legendary Marv Levy and the Buffalo Bills before joining the Washington Redskins and the Bombers in 2001.
"Me and (then Stampeders boss) Wally Buono were squabbling over money," said Brown. "We were going back and forth and it was literally coming down to a few hundred dollars — in my recollection, at least — and I get a phone call from Marv Levy while we are hashing out this contract. He says ‘Hey, do you want a free-agent tryout with Buffalo?’ So I called Wally back and told him he can keep the 300 extra dollars. I’m going to give this a go.’"
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Brown would spend ’97 on the Bills practice roster before signing with Washington, playing two years there before breaking his foot and missing the 2000 season. And that’s when, as fate would have it, then Bombers GM Brendan Taman pulled off one of the greatest trades in club history by dealing their first-round pick in 2002 (Jon Oosterhuis, who would end up playing his entire career with the Bombers) and a third-round pick in 2003 for Brown.
Now a medical equipment representative for Zimmer Biomet in Manitoba, Brown — who grew up in Vancouver and had never been to Winnipeg before being traded — now lives year round. In addition to his regular gig, he still writes a column for The Free Press and is the colour analyst of Bomber games on CJOB.
"It was hard to let (the NFL) go," admitted Brown. "I call those (first seasons) with the Bombers) my brat years because I don’t think I had an appreciation of not only the city, but of the CFL, either. It was something that had to grow on me. I had to immerse myself in this community and open up to the prospects that were ahead of me in Canadian Football. The NFL is ‘Not For Long’ and there’s nothing guaranteed down there.
"Once you are full-time immersed in Winnipeg it totally changes. When you’re part time, when you’re just here for a season and the mosquitoes and you don’t have the free time and you can’t get out there and go to Lake of the Woods and West Hawk and snowmobile your experience is what your season is. Once I moved up here it changed everything."
A brief look at the latest additions to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame:
Doug Brown, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2001-2011)
Eight-time divisional all star and a seven-time CFL all star; CFL Most Outstanding Canadian in 2001 and a runner-up in 2006 and 2007. Nominated as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2008.
Is second on the Bombers all-time tackle list and his seven CFL all-star selections are second only to John Helton at the defensive tackle position.
James West, Calgary Stampeders (1982-84), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1985-92), B.C. Lions (1993).
Three-time divisional all star, two-time CFL all star; finalist for Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1987. Currently fifth on the Bombers all-time tackle list; two-time Grey Cup champion with the Bombers in 1988 and 1990.
Derrel (Mookie) Mitchell, Toronto Argonauts (1997-2003), Edmonton Eskimos (2004-06)
Five-time divisional all star and three-time CFL all star. Ninth on the all-time receiving yards list with 12,014; CFL rookie of the year in 1997.