Rocco joins CFL Hall of Fame

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The first time Rocco Romano saw the Grey Cup in person, Angelo Mosca was parading with the rest of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1972.

The Ticats were celebrating their win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders and were heading down Barton Street, a couple of blocks away from Romano's house.

Today, the Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman is back in Hamilton, where he will officially join Mosca in the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, coming full circle on his life in football.

Between '72 and 2000, Romano went from young fan to hot-dog salesman at Ivor Wynne Stadium to collegiate star and five-time CFL all-star and two-time West Division lineman of the year.

"For me, to paint a perfect pitcher capping off my career, this is a dream come true," said Romano yesterday from Steeltown. "Growing up in Hamilton, and for this to take place here is really special for me."

The ceremony today in which Romano, Darren Flutie, Pierre Vercheval and Greg Battle, along with builder Dave Knight, is also a special one for Jay McNeil, who was Romano's roommate on road trips and a great friend.

When McNeil arrived in Calgary for the 1994 season, Romano was already an established team leader but he took the youngster under his wing.

"I'm so excited for him," McNeil said. "It's a great honour and he's very deserving. It's cool when a lineman gets recognized because it's tough to do. We don't have stats that show immediately that he's a Hall-of-Famer."

McNeil said he learned a lot about how to be an effective team captain from Romano.

After his playing career ended in 2000 due to a shoulder injury, Romano stayed in Calgary.

He started working in the oil business with Carson Welding and Maintenance, but also stayed involved in the community, recruiting local businesses to donate tickets in support of Rocco's Kids.

This season, he joined the CHQR radio broadcasts as a sideline reporter and is still a fixture at games.


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