Pitts gets his due

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Allen Pitts' sensational receiving numbers say so much more about the man than he has ever been willing to provide.

The Cal-State Fullerton grad will be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this autumn and when they unveil Pitts' bronze bust, true to form, the lips will be sealed.

Fact is, the stats always did the talking during the lanky slotback's turbulent and record-setting 11 seasons with the Calgary Stampeders (1990-2000).

An icon for his on-field production, Pitts never endeared himself within the community as did so many other players before him and since.

While awe-inspiring between the lines, in street clothes he could be aloof and moody, never connecting with the people who adored his every move on the field.

"Perhaps I could have done more, I can't say, but I won't say I didn't put forth the effort at one time," Pitts, 42, said yesterday from his home in Los Angeles where he is a construction foreman.

"Who knows what people are looking for at a given time and place? Timing is the key. Pretty early in my career, I tried to make some contacts and it just wouldn't happen. It just didn't feel right for them as well as me.

"People think 'whatever' and form their own opinions. That's OK but I've always needed to do what I needed to do.

"Could things have been different in Calgary? Perhaps."

In 2004 the Stampeders honoured Pitts by retiring his No. 18 jersey in a ceremony at McMahon Stadium, although the legendary pass-catcher refused interviews.

While he failed to endear himself with some people, he has been unconditionally accepted within CFL ranks where his exceptional numbers virtually guaranteed admittance to the Hall of Fame in Hamilton.

Pitts caught 966 passes for 14,891 yards and 117 touchdowns -- all CFL records -- although Darren Flutie eventually surpassed the career catches mark.

Pitts and the Stamps appeared in five Grey Cup games, winning in both 1992 and '98.

Through 176 regular-season games, Pitts used his distinct size advantage (6 ft. 4 in.) to average 15.4 yards per reception while catching touchdown passes in 95 games. Four times he led the CFL in receiving yardage.

Achievements befitting the Hall of Fame, a satisfying accomplishment for Pitts.

"It feels good. I got the news a few days ago and wasn't expecting it at all, was deep into work and it made that day go by a lot better," Pitts said. "It's a really good feeling looking back at the guys I played with, the hard work we put in together. Because I played with some great guys, I was able to have my own successes and it really made me feel good."

Former Stampeders head coach/GM Wally Buono brought Pitts to Calgary in 1990 and was among those unable to fully understand the man inside the uniform.

"The fans wanted to get to know Al but I don't know if Allen was going to allow that to happen," Buono recalls. "Allen could be very charming but when he was in one of his moods, it was difficult. Allen fought some demons. Some tough things."

Pitts benefited from the passing prowess of a string of fine quarterbacks in Calgary including Danny Barrett, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia and Dave Dickenson.

"Danny Barrett early on schooled me along with (offensive co-ordinators) John Hufnagel and Jeff Tedford," Pitts notes.

"They schooled me early about the game and that was important in my development in terms of the confidence it gave me, the growth that it gave me.

"When Doug came, just because of how he is, how he plays and the ability he has, even though we didn't hang out together, we did talk and during the game we communicated. I clicked with him the best. He had something extra. I don't know where it comes from but he has it and we could be thinking the same thing one the field, even when that particular route wasn't called or if he had to run around and buy some more time, we were able to do it.

"He threw the ball before I knew it was coming and we had many completions that way."

Now Pitts will enter the hall of fame, a confirmation of how much he meant to the game and its fans.

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OTHER INDUCTEES

* MATT DUNIGAN

The only quarterback in CFL history to lead four different teams to the Grey Cup.

* BOBBY JURASIN

The 12-year veteran DE won a Grey Cup in 1989 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

* GIZMO WILLIAMS

CFL's all-time leader in punt and kick returns won Grey Cups in '87 and '93 with Edmonton.


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