Lui Passaglia has been on my mind recently. It is all because of an excellent series that has been running right here on Ninety-Nine Yards.
Greg Forbes has been running a series titled ‘Sunday Morning Special Teams’. That series has featured some truly classic NFL special teams players.
The focus has been just that though, (the NFL) with the notable exception of an excellent nod to Mike Vanderjagt’s time with the Argonauts.
I am on record saying how much I love special teams. Because of that it seems only natural that with my CFL fan hat on this series got me thinking about some of the great special teams players who have played North of the Border.
A one team legend
Looking back at the history of the league there have been some great special teams players. I’ve even talked about one or two before now.
Every year the rich tapestry of the league’s history is added to. Special teams have been no exception to that rule of late. I thought it would be fun though to look at a retired great.
That player is the BC Boomer Lui Passaglia. Unquestionably one of the most popular BC Lions and one of the best kickers in the history of the CFL. He had a staggering 25 year career with one club.
It is hard to imagine in the age of wide ranging player movement and one year contracts, but Passaglia spent a quarter of a century with one team. No wonder the Lions put him on the Ring of Honour banner and retired his number.
Passaglia played a team record 408 games between 1976 and 2000 for the Lions. He also holds the team records for field goals, scoring and punting. In fact so big are his numbers that his 133,826 yards punting lead second place man Paul McCallum by 95, 914 yards!
As a brief aside for UK fans who are wondering why McCallum sounds familiar, – he played for the Scottish Claymores. He kicked 46 and 50 yard Field Goals as the Claymores won World Bowl 96.
A League-Wide Legend
When you spend 25 years in a league you are bound to leave a mark. Not just on your own team but on the wider league too.
Passaglia’s 408 games played are a league record. Some might say kickers last longer than “regular” players because they experience less contact. Maybe, but that does not account for natural ageing and general wear and tear.
To retain the leg strength to be kicking for 25 years is remarkable. To do it for an 18 game CFL season and have a 100% XP conversion and 90.9% FG conversion rate in your last season is ridiculous. (Although we should note age was finally a factor as the Lions had two kickers at this point and Lui only kicked attempts under 40 yards).
Throughout his career Passaglia was remarkably consistent. For instance he
missed scoring 100 points in a season only once. That was 1988 when he missed 6 games.
He also twice scored over 200 points in a season (214 in 1987 and 210 in 1991). That 1987 season was the first time in league history anyone had gone over 200 points.
At the time of his retirement Lui Passaglia held the records for most regular seasons played with 25, most regular season game played with 408, and most points scored in regular season play with 3,991 points.
He also held the CFL records for most XP’s with 1,014 (560 consecutive), most field goals with 875, and best field goal percentage in a season at 90.9% .
Not to mention he was the all-time punt leader with 3,142 punts for 133,826 yards, with the highest average in a season of 50.2 yards in 1983.
As is the way with these things some of these records have been superseded. The punting yardage record now belongs to Bob Cameron. The best average for a season is now held by Jon Ryan.
Although his single season field goal accuracy record has been broken on multiple occasions in recent years he still has the most Field Goals in league history. Not to mention the most points in regular season play with 3,991.
Passaglia was named a CFL Western Division All-Star nine times. Of those he won 7 West All-Star awards as a place kicker, and was 4 times named West All-Star for his punting.
He was 4 time overall CFL All-Star for placekicking (1979, 1983, 1984 and his final season in 2000).
Five Grey Cup appearances burnished Passaglia’s 25 year career. He appeared with the Lions in the Cup matches in 1983, 1985, 1988, 1994, and 2000.
Winners rings were collected in 1985, 1994, and 2000. The latter surely being the best way to cap his retirement as he kicked the winning points in a 26-23 win over Montreal. He also won the Dick Suderman Trophy as the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian twice at the 73rd Grey Cup and 82nd Grey Cup.
He is a member of Canada’s sports Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and of course the Canadian Football Hall of Fame having been inducted in 2004.
Those two touchdowns
Remarkably for a man remembered most for his kicking, Passaglia’s regular season career is sandwiched between two touchdowns.
Passaglia caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in his first CFL regular season game on July 22, of the 1976 CFL season against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
He scored his only other career touchdown on a one-yard run in his final home game in the 2000 season, again against the Roughriders.
Perhaps fittingly Passaglia’s last-second field goal in 1994’s 82nd Grey Cup game at BC Place, which clinched the championship for the Lions over the Baltimore Football Club, was according to Wikipedia named the greatest play in BC Lions history in 2007.
Not bad for a guy some would doubtless at some point have thought of as ‘just a kicker’. Small wonder he made it to the top 50 players in the modern CFL.
Banner image from cfl.ca
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