In the two years since he stopped playing in the CFL, Alondra Johnson has waited for the right moment to officially retire.
That time is now. And he's going out the it was meant to be: As a member of the Calgary Stampeders. Johnson, one of the greatest linebackers to ever play in the CFL, signed a one-day contract and retires with the Stamps, putting an end to a brilliant career that spanned 16 years and 248 games. His tenure with the Stampeders began in 1991 when then head coach Wally Buono brought him on board to help stuff opposing team's mobile quarterbacks.
It ended during training camp in 2004 and Johnson then joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders for their playoff run. He finishes with 1,178 career defensive tackles, two league all-star honours and three Grey Cup rings, all with the Stampeders.
"This is such a tremendous opportunity that it gets to end this way," said Johnson, who is now living in Medicine Hat. "This is the final chapter to close on my career."
Receiver Terry Vaughn also signed a one-day contract with the Stamps and also officially retires, and Vaughn is proud to share the spotlight with Johnson at the home game with the Toronto Argonauts.
"I feel he's the best linebacker to play in the CFL," Vaughn said. "He never got his due credit for the kind of player he was. Willie Pless got a lot of credit but hands-down, Alondra was the best linebacker."
Throughout his career, Johnson cared more about the team than recording stats or winning awards. It showed in the way he played and how he could hunt down running backs no matter who they were. Now that he gets to hear how kind words such as Vaughn's and how former teammates were honoured to play with him, he gets emotional.
"To be respected, for people to say that, it means a lot to me. It touches my heart," Johnson said. "You never know how much guys appreciate it because they don't say it when you are playing. It's truly an honour to hear such gracious words spoken about me. I feel the same way towards those guys because every one of my teammates meant something to me as well, in one way or another. It's very special."
Johnson's career highlights are obviously the Grey Cup wins in 1992, 1998 and 2001 but he lists the times he won the President's Ring as special moments because his family got to share in the ceremony.
They weren't special because he was being honoured but because the Ring is voted on by teammates for the player who best exemplifies motivational and leadership skills on and off the field. Johnson won the President's Ring in 2001 and 2002.
"I never really think about the awards or stats," Johnson said. "I just knew I played a good 14 years with the Stamps, and I know I enjoyed them. I feel blessed to be able to play that long. For what I accomplished, I don't know what my stats or numbers say. That's not what was important to me. It was part of the job. The thing that was important was camaraderie, friends and associates I had with the team. It was important to build relationships."