TORONTO - Damon Allen let others speak for him in the year since he was stunningly denied first-ballot admission to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
On Monday, a day after getting the call, the man who led four different teams to Grey Cups — including the Argos at the age of 41 — showed humility, but could not mask a little bit of irritation about the wait.
Allen said it was “mind-boggling” that he was now in the company of legends.
“When you think of how many players have gone before you, it humbles you because (there were) so many great players,” Allen said.
Allen added that he was fine with Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo recently eclipsing his CFL passing yardage record of 72,381, along with two other passing marks this season.
“You realize records are made to be broken,” he said.
But he admitted he was disappointed not to get in last year, “especially when you don’t understand the criteria,” but said he let disgruntled fans do the talking following that let-down.
Once enshrined, though, he broke his silence.
“In my mind, I’m a first-ballot hall of famer no matter what anybody says,” Allen said.
Allen, 48, retired after 23 CFL seasons as the league’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions. Though he is now second in those categories, his 11,920 rushing yards is still the best for a quarterback and only two players have rushed for more at any position.
Allen does not buy the argument that he only posted so many gaudy numbers because of his longevity.
If so, he correctly maintained, shouldn’t he also be the runaway leader in interceptions thrown? Danny McManus threw three more interceptions in six less seasons, while the legendary Ron Lancaster threw over a hundred more than Allen.
As Allen said: “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.”
Argos general manager/head coach Jim Barker was happy to see Allen honoured, even if he agreed with the quarterback that it should have happened earlier.
“Obviously his numbers, he probably should have gotten in last year,” Barker said.
“It’s great that he gets in and I think people will remember, even though Damon played in a number of different places, they’ll remember him as an Argonaut.”
Allen spent his final five seasons with the Argonauts, needing just that short stint to place second in club history in passing yardage, attempts and completions, and he is one of only five Argos ever to be named the CFL’s most outstanding player.
Fittingly, the man of many homes, will head into the hall with the man of many hats, Argos and B.C. Lions owner David Braley, who will be enshrined in the builder’s category along with former University of Calgary head coach Peter Connellan.
All-time CFL touchdown leader Milt Stegall, former Saskatchewan offensive lineman Jack Abendschan, Winnipeg’s all-time sacks leader Tyrone Jones and running back Eric LaPointe also got the call.
“I don’t know that we’d have a league without (Braley),” Barker said.
“To me he is the CFL in terms of whatever it takes to make a league successful he’s done that and that’s what a hall of famer is all about.”
Braley, a senator, bought the Argos in February 2010.
He previously owned the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (where Allen first played for him) and was CFL interim commisioner in 2002.
“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.”
Allen said going in with Braley will be special.
“When you meet an owner that is dedicated to the game and really dives into it, it puts Mr. Braley into a different level … if anybody deserves to be in the hall of fame it’s Mr. Braley.”
Braley. 70, said he hopes to put both the Argos and Lions into good hands within the next five years.