End of the road

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

It's the end of the road for Edmonton Eskimos' running back Mike Pringle.

After much deliberation, the CFL's all-time rushing leader has elected to call it a career.

The 37-year-old made official what had long been expected during a conference call yesterday.

Following the advice offered by many, rather than rushing head-long into retirement after last season, the six-time CFL all-star opted for reflection instead.

Two weeks ago, Pringle committed to life after football and circled a date on the calendar for his announcement.

"Finalizing it was the difficult part," explained Pringle, who began and ended his 13-year CFL career in a Green and Gold uniform. "But it was time and I told (Esks head coach) Danny (Maciocia) a couple of weeks ago what my intentions were.

"I knew quite some time ago that I was going to retire. The hardest thing for me to do was this portion of it to make it final. This is the part I was trying to put off as long as possible because I knew once I officially announced it, that was it."

The bull-necked Pringle passed Gerge Reed on the all-time rushing list with a 10-yard carry against the B.C. Lions on Sept. 18.

After falling two yards shy of eclipsing Reed the week before, Pringle rumbling into the record book versus B.C. was almost anticlimactic. It wasn't the pursuit of Reed's rushing record that drove Pringle. A lead-pipe cinch for the CFL Hall of Fame, he was prepared to leave the game with or without it.

"Everything that I have done in my career has brought me great satisfaction," Pringle said. "I could have walked away knowing that I've done some great things on the football field. I had records. I had championships. I had MVP (awards). I had everything that makes a successful career.

"I didn't necessarily need to eclipse those records. Ideally, what would have happened would have been for me to walk away after we won the ('03) Grey Cup and ride into the sunset. That would have been fine but I wanted to finish out my contract in Edmonton."

On the heels of back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons with the Esks, Pringle's regular-season career rushing total is 16,425 yards.

Maciocia and Pringle were like bread and butter when they were together in Montreal. It was the Maciocia-designed offence that allowed Pringle to chalk up a huge yardage each season. And it was Maciocia who allowed Pringle to continue to carry the ball even when Montreal had games well in hand. Maciocia was also instrumental in luring Pringle to Edmonton after the running back and Als parted company.

"We have a tendency to look at the number of yards," said Maciocia, who concedes not having Pringle in the backfield is going to be odd. "What I find most impressive is the number of carries. That's the thing that's constantly being overlooked.

"Take a look at the number of (regular-season) carries (2,962) on a per season basis and you come to the conclusion that is one tough football player."

Tough scarcely describes the bulldozer-like Pringle, who hit the hole hard and was nearly impossible to bring down.

Troy Mills spent most of the '03 season lining up at fullback and blocking for Pringle. With Mills throwing blocks and Pringle carrying the ball, the Esks were a force along the ground.

"He didn't have the prettiest form running the ball and catching the ball. But he was a load when he got going.

"He didn't have to move or have the footwork. He was so strong and when he got going, he was hard to bring down. As the game went on, the stronger he got."


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