'One of the best'

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

There's an old expression with championship teams: You walk together for life.

"When something like this happens, you cry together," said Don Matthews.

Teammates who won five Grey Cups together, today grieve together, wherever they may be.

David Boone, a member of the original "Alberta Crude" defensive line which anchored the Edmonton Eskimos to five straight Grey Cups, is dead.

No official cause of death was immediately available. The medical examiner in Point Roberts, Washington, where the 53-year-old former all-star resided, has claimed jurisdiction and would not release further information.

It was Dave Fennell, who played on the same defensive line as Boone, who called Eskimos CEO Hugh Campbell, their coach in the five-in-a-row run, to break the news.

"Dave Fennell did a lot for him. All of us did. The Eskimos did. But of all of us, it was Fennell who had done the most for him," said Campbell of the player who Fennell and others yesterday said had suffered from severe depression.

"Dave called me early this morning and said 'This is real tough ...' As soon as he said that, I started shaking. I knew it was going to be about David Boone," said Campbell.

Matthews, the Montreal Alouettes head coach who was Boone's defensive coach in the five-in-a-row run, received a call from Fennell as well.

Matthews, who spends Christmas with Fennell every year, was in South America with Fennell just last week when the subject of Boone came up.

NOT DOING WELL

"Dave Fennell and I were in South America together last week. I asked him 'How's Booner doing?' He said 'Not well.' He said he was having a tough time.

"On a day like today you second-guess yourself. I wish I would have called him when I got back. I called Tom Towns this morning. It just knocked him down. Boone was such a private person even when he was an Eskimo and moreso when he was out of football. Thank God for Fennell helping him for such a long time."

Fennell, who has become very successful in the mining industry over the years, was in Vancouver yesterday when he received the call from a person he described as Boone's former wife.

"The last time I talked to him was about 10 days ago. I try to check in with him after I come back from a trip. I spend a lot of time travelling these days. But I liked to call fairly frequently to see how he was doing.

"... He was a great player. He was part of a group which had a lot of success together. Nobody has come close to what that team did together. He was one of the players with the selflessness that was part of what we had together."

Boone played seven seasons with the Eskimos from 1977 through to 1983, was a three-time West Division All-Star and a CFL All-Star in 1981.

TOM PATE AWARD

A year later he was the recipient of the Tom Pate Award for sportsmanship, contribution to team and community.

"David was a great player on some of the best teams the CFL has ever seen and an even better person off the field," said Campbell.

"The last time he came to Edmonton was when Warren Moon went up on the Wall of Honour. We tried to get together as many of his team-mates as we could. At first he said couldn't come. I made sure he could. It turned out to be a good thing. I remember specifically people saying they had him back in the same personality as when he had been their teammate.

"The thing I'll always remember about David Boone is he played hard every single play in practice. You say that about a lot of guys, but I mean he really played hard every single play in practice. It was to the point where Charlie Turner was very agitated. He was the offensive tackle on the other side of the ball."

Campbell said at least he didn't bat Turner on the helmet every play. "Players hated to play against him because he'd bang them on the side of the helmet. The league eventually put in a rule to eliminate that. It became known as the David Boone rule."

Tom Wilkinson said he was a special player on a special team. "He was such a good guy. I would probably call him a gentle giant. Off the field he was just a gentleman. On the field he did what he was supposed to do. He was one of the best on a very good team."

Boone, who broke into the league with the B.C. Lions, came to the Eskimos in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats along with Angelo Santucci. He returned to the Vancouver area at the end of his career.

Towns said it's tough on all the members of that team today.

"We're a family. Today we all have regrets for not phoning him as often."


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