Silky, smooth combo back

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

It had been 23 years between passes, but Warren Moon and Brian Kelly were still silky smooth.

For the first time since the end of the 1983 season, Kelly stepped on the Commonwealth Stadium grass yesterday afternoon and ran a sideline pattern.

And just like old times, Moon hit him completely in stride with a tight, crisp spiral.

"You haven't lost it," chirped Moon to his longtime favourite receiver.

Indeed, both legendary Eskimos are still remarkably fit and could probably school a few players tonight when the 2006 version of the Edmonton Eskimos host the Calgary Stampeders in the home-opener of the regular season. But the former teammates are actually back in their old stomping grounds to launch the CFL's summer contest to determine the greatest quarterback-receiver combination in league history.

And it's hard to think they won't win the online contest, when voting officially starts on the CFL website in August after all nine tandems are finally introduced. During their five years in Edmonton - 1979-83 - they celebrated four Grey Cup victories while connecting for 40 touchdowns and a stunning 5,046 yards.

"We worked a lot on the side together and worked a lot together in the off-season and got a good chemistry going early in our tenure," recalled Moon yesterday.

KELLY STILL KNOWS THE PLAYBOOK

Kelly's memory is just as sharp, still remembering pass patterns like yesterday.

"We did very unorthodox things on the field, just because of the strength of his arm," said Kelly. "I would go to a part of the field and (the defenders) would think, why is he there?

"But the ball would go over their head and they soon found out."

The pair connected for 266 passes during their stay in the Great White North, but two still stand out today.

Both come from a Western Final at Commonwealth Stadium, but from different years.

For Kelly, his most memorable moment is from 1981 against B.C.

"We were having troubles - as we sometimes did in those Western Finals - and Warren and I just talked on the sidelines and ad-libbed a play," he recalled. "And it ended up working for a touchdown that put us ahead."

For Moon, it was against Winnipeg on a bitterly cold day.

"I slipped and went to the ground, but I was able to keep my balance and get back up," he said. "And Brian had made a double move on the corner and I was able to get the ball to him.

"We were behind at the time, but we came back to win."

As Eskimo fans are still painfully aware, the Moon-Kelly connection ended after 1983, but just one look in their eyes yesterday made it clear that Edmonton still has a special place in their hearts.

"I wouldn't give up the experience I had up here for anything in the world," said Moon, who went on to 17 years in the NFL.

The pair - along with their families - will be celebrity guests at tonight's game.

LEGENDARY PRE-GAME TALK

But before the tilt starts, behind the closed doors of the Eskimos locker-room, head coach Danny Maciocia is hoping the legends will address his current players.

"I would talk to them about the tradition of being an Eskimo and what it takes to be a defending champion," said Moon.

"And I would talk to them about playing Eskimo football, which is to play physical, smart, fast and have fun."

Maybe Moon and Kelly can help spark a victory simply by talking this time.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

WARREN MOON

Age: 49; Home: California

Occupation: Broadcaster for Seattle Seahawk games; partner in a sports management business

On the horizon: Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

BRIAN KELLY

Age: 50; Home: Minnesota

Occupation: Manager of a Minneapolis Ford dealership

On the horizon: Yet another Ironman competition.


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