Dickenson waves 'bye

Former Stampeder quarterback Dave Dickenson gives a wave with his son Cooper after he announced his...

Former Stampeder quarterback Dave Dickenson gives a wave with his son Cooper after he announced his retirement from football. (Sun Media/Stuart Dryden)

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Looking down at the limp little body sprawled on the floor wearing No. 15, Dave Dickenson smiled and did what he's always done best: Spotted an opening and took it.

"That was me most of my career," deadpanned the 36-year-old quarterback while reaching down to pick up his motionless two-year-old, Cooper.

"They say kids follow in their father's footsteps."

After 11 seasons as one of the CFL's most dominant and battle-scarred quarterbacks of a generation, the University of Montana icon officially called it quits yesterday.

Finishing with three Grey Cup rings, a Most Outstanding Player Award and a Grey Cup MVP accolade, he categorized his career as "quality over quantity" as his 5-foot-10 frame could only take so much.

"I feel like I maxed out my potential and my body," said Dickenson, never able to start all 18 games in one season.

"For me to be good, I had to stare at that rush, let it come and step into my throws, and with my height, I took a lot of hits to the head. I took a pounding. In the '90s, quarterbacks were really getting abused in this league and it started adding up."

Indeed, despite leading the league every year in accuracy -- for which he holds several CFL records -- the stats fans in both B.C. and Calgary paid attention to most as he rounded out his career was four-for-four, as in annual concussions.

"I don't think any defender can tell you I was out there scared -- I took hits as well as anybody," said Dickenson, without question one of the toughest football players this league has ever seen.

"To me, part of the fun was getting knocked down and keep getting back up. Unfortunately, in the end, I couldn't get back up as often as I wanted."

The final blow was a routine hit during last year's Labour Day game, which brought back post-concussion symptoms and ruined his return to the city as an insurance policy for Henry Burris. Unable to get medical clearance for the playoffs as he'd hoped, the man who studied rocket science in college knew then he was finished.

"I'm not beat up about this decision because I know it's right," said Dickenson.

"The hit I took that ended up finishing it off was probably a blessing. It was a fairly innocent hit ... it set my mind at ease."

Using words like "privileged" and "lucky" several times to describe a career in which the affable, easy-going pivot was adored by fans and the media, the unflappable father of two showed rare emotion only after spotting his wife and kids at the large gathering held inside the club's locker-room.

"As far as when I was out there ... I got it done," said the watery-eyed future Hall of Famer, pointing out no team he ever played for won less than 11 games in a season.

Not bad for a kid who caught Wally Buono's eye in 1996 when he beat out three other quarterbacks to back up Jeff Garcia and Danny Barrett, leading to five years in town before the NFL came calling for two seasons of clipboard duty. Five subsequent years in B.C. saw him resurrect a franchise and win his only Grey Cup ring as a starter before the concussions started and he returned "home" for his final season here.

As much as he got hit, he was no tackling dummy, as witnessed by his ability to read defences like no other. His year on the sideline with Burris clearly helped ol' Hank become a Grey Cup champ, prompting the Stamps to offer him a coaching job he's contemplating.

"I don't want to go into something without fully knowing my next step," said Dickenson, currently consumed by daddy duties.

"I definitely think football will be in me -- I don't know what level."

Odd as he spent 13 years at the very highest level.

"To me, it's the ultimate man's sport, and somehow, they let me play it," said the humble warrior.

And when healthy, few men have played it better.


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