I love the history of pro football, and I love the CFL. Which is why in the past on the 99 Yards website CFL pages we have looked at some of the greats of the game. So far, we have looked back at a variety of special teams players. As well as defensive superstars quarterbacks, and running backs (See end of article).
But what about the men out wide? I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the great CFL names in that area of the game. After all, UK based NFL fans with a love of the history of the game can tell you plenty about men like Jery Rice, Randy Moss, Don Hutson, Steve Largent, Calvin Johnson and many many more.
Well I am here to tell UK based gridiron fans that the 3 down game has a pantheon of its own. Sitting at or near the top of that pantheon is Winnipeg Blue Bombers legend Milt Stegall.
Milt Stegall: a one team legend
Looking back at the history of the league there have been some great wideouts. But Milt Stegall captured the hearts of one set of fans in particular. A 14-year career (1995 to 2008), was played entirely in Blue Bombers blue, gold and white.
How imortant was he to the team? If you check out the history of the team on Wikipedia, they split it into eras, including 1997-2008 being labelled ‘the Milt Stegall era’.
When it comes to CFL receiving records, Stegall is there or thereabouts in the top 10 of multiple receiving categouroes – and he did all of that in the ‘Peg. That’s not to say he doesn’t lead in some areas. Such as career touchdowns (144), Most TDs in a season (23 in 2007), and highest yards per catch average for one season (26.5 in 1997).
Flirting with the NFL
The former Miami (Ohio) player was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1992. He stuck around for 3 seasons with the Bengals. Making just four receptions for 43 yards and one touchdown. Alongside 26 kickoff returs for 446 yards. He was briefly with the Packers in 1995 before being cut due to injury and trying his hand in Canada.
He played the lat six games of the CFL season in 1995 and had 25 catches for 469 yards and 4 touchdowns. The following year he had 34 catches for 613 yards and 11 touchdowns. In fact there was little indication of what was to come until his third season. In 1997 he was named an All-Star following having made 61 catches for 1,616 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Another shortened CFL season followed as he tried out with the New Orleans Saints. Then, from 1999 onwards the ‘Milt Stegall era’ really kicked into gear in Manitoba.
First CFL TD: In his first CFL game on Sept. 19, 1995, he caught a 14-yard pass from Kevin McDougal in a loss to Calgary.
Last CFL TD: A 31-yard pass from Kevin Glenn in a 30-23 win in Edmonton on Sept. 26, 2008.
Milt Stegall – super slotback
Stegall had a great season in 1997 but he would have sustained success from the slotback position. It all peaked in 2002 when he had 106 catches for 1,896 yards and 23 touchdowns. All league leading marks. On the way he notched 10 100 yard receiving games and was named league MOP.
We shouldn’t overlook his consistency either. From 1999-2007 he posted nine consecutive 1000+ yard receiving seasons.
Plus, he was a big play beast. He had multiple long gain touchdowns. Even looking at his longest yardage reception of each season we see some incredible numbers: 105 yards (1997), 99 yards (1999), 101 yards (2005), 100 yards (2006) & 92 yards (2008). Even in the ‘lower’ numbered years he was taking home 50, 60, 70 & 80 plus yard TDs.
Of all of them perhaps Blue Bombers fans remember the ‘miracle catch’ best. Stegall scored the winning 100-yard touchdown reception to lead the Blue Bombers to a 25–22 victory over Edmonton with no time left on the clock in a July 2006 contest.
We’ll give the last word to the ‘Turtle Man’ himself, – “There’s only six guarantees in this world. Death, taxes, trouble, Milt Stegall being on time, Milt Stegall being pretty, Milt Stegall being in tip-top shape. There are only six guarantees.”
A nine-time CFL All-Star (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). Stegall entered the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2016 he was added to the Blue Bombers Ring of honour.
In 2002 he was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player. While in 2007 he was presented the Tom Pate Award for ‘outstanding sportsmanship and who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and the Association.’
The only achievement missing from the Cincinnati native’s superb CFL CV was a Grey Cup championship. He appeared in the CFL title game in 2001 and 2007 when the Bombers lost to Calgary and Saskatchewan, respectively.
Beyond the wide receivers
Special teams players we have looked at have included kickers Paul Osbaldiston, Lui Passaglia, Bob Cameron and Dave Cutler. As well as legendary returners Michael “Pinball” Clemons and Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams.
On the quarterbacking front we have looked at the likes of Damon Allen, Ron Lancaster, Tom Wilkinson, Tracy Ham, Tom Clements, Dieter Brock and Sam Etcheverry.
Not to mention defensive superstars such as Wayne Harris, Willie Pless, Angelo Mosca, Dickie Harris, Norm Fieldgate, Jim Corrigall, and Bill Baker.
While the backs we looked at were legendary too. Including Kelvin Anderson, Charles Roberts, George Reed, Johnny Bright, & the legendary Mike Pringle.
Players make the game and great players make up part of the rich fabric of the history fo the game. So if you want to know more why not pick some out and take a look?
Banner Image: Milt Stegall in action for the Blue Bombers. Image from bluebombers.com