EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos having five named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame the same induction year is something which should certainly be celebrated.
But how much?
Should Gino Fracas, Danny McManus, Joe Montford, Terry Vaughn and Don Matthews have their names unveiled on the Eskimos Wall of Fame facade at Commonwealth Stadium this fall? Or none of the above?
The correct answer is none. Not a one.
First of all, forget about Don Matthews.
While Pop Ivy, Hugh Campbell and Norm Kimball deserve to be up there, it’s players only in Edmonton.
And even if it weren’t, Matthews doesn’t deserve to be up there. Maybe Montreal. Possibly Toronto. Not in Edmonton.
No question Matthews deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
And quite rightly, the head coach who won 10 Grey Cups should be the most celebrated of the Class of 2011.
Matthews won the first five of those in Edmonton as an assistant on Hugh Campbell’s staff which included Cal Murphy and Joe Faragalli. Between head coaching jobs, he returned as an assistant in 1989 and then returned as a head coach for two years. His record was a pedestrian 16-20 and he was fired during training camp, allegedly for health reasons, but which proved to me more about deportment issues and coaching staff treatment issues.
So, no. Not Matthews.
Gino Fracas won Grey Cups with the Eskimos in 1955 and 1956. If he deserved to be in there as a player, you’d figure it would have happened by now. Indeed, he was selected to become a Hall of Famer as a builder not a player.
While Fracas played eight seasons with the Green & Gold, it was his career as a college coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears from 1963 to 1966 and at the University of Windsor which won him admission.
So, he’s a no.
Danny McManus played two seasons with the Eskimos — 1996 and 1997 — and there was nothing special about either other than completing 33 of 46 passes for 497 yards in the ’97 opener.
Quarterback sack star Joe Montford ended his career in Edmonton in 2005 and 2006 and won a Grey Cup ring in ’05. But he’ll be remembered as a Hamilton Tiger-Cat great, not an Eskimo.
That leaves Terry Vaughn.
Vaughn started his career in Calgary in 1995 and won a Grey Cup as a Stampeder in 1998 before signing as a free agent with the Eskimos. He played six seasons in Edmonton and had by far the most success of his unquestioned Hall of Fame career as an Eskimo.
Vaughn led the league in catches with 98 for 1,497 yards including five 100-yard games in 2001 and two years later caught 106 for 1,558 in leading the Eskimos to their most recent Grey Cup in 2005.
He also had a remarkable 7-1 record playing in Labour Day games, losing the one as an Eskimo in a game remembered for Ed Hervey swinging his helmet. Now the head scout of the Eskimos, Hervey gives him his ultimate testimonial.
“Terry was one of the best players I have ever seen with the ball in his hands. His ability to break tackles after the catch was a thing of beauty. If you look up the term ‘Yards After Catch’ there would be a picture of Terry Vaughn. He was a great player and a great friend and I’m very proud of him.”
That isn’t true with most others inside the Eskimos organization, however. Vaughn’s final act in the CFL was to sign a two-day contract with Calgary so he could go out as a Stampeder.
That was a middle finger held high in the air in the direction of Edmonton.
The one guy who should go up on the Eskimos Wall of Fame this year is the guy, who according to reports Friday had become eligible for the Hall and didn’t get voted on by the 13-member selection committee — Damon Allen.
If that turns out to be true, all 13 of them should be booted out on their ears and a whole new batch appointed, especially on a year in which they decided to include Maritimes college quarterback Chris Flynn who didn’t play a year in the CFL much less than 23 seasons like Allen who ended up with the greatest numbers in the entire history of pro football.
Allen came into the league as an Eskimo and won two Grey Cups in two separate stints over six seasons with the team and made it very clear at the Grey Cup this year that he considered himself very much at the front of the line in the ‘Once An Eskimo, Always An Eskimo’ category.
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