Former Alouette Proudfoot dies

Tony Proudfoot was happy to see the Alouettes win another Grey Cup championship in 2010. He is seen...

Tony Proudfoot was happy to see the Alouettes win another Grey Cup championship in 2010. He is seen here offering his support to De'Audra Dix in the CFL's East Final. (QMI Agency/Eric Bolte)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:14 PM ET

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Alouettes have lost a long-time member of their fraternity.

Tony Proudfoot, who played for the Als from 1971 to 1979, lost his three-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Thursday at the Montreal Neurological Institute. He was 61.

He is survived by his wife Vicki as well as his three children, Michael, Lindsay and Lauren.

"The Alouettes have suffered a great loss," Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall said in a release. "Like a true Alouette, Tony fought hard 'til the end. He unfortunately lost his tough battle, but even during these tough times, he has stuck by the team, inspiring them to push themselves harder.

"It was a true honour to have Tony around the team these past years. He has helped raise awareness of ALS and I truly hope that his foundation will live on and eventually help find a cure for this vicious disease. I would like to offer my deepest sympathy to his wife Vicky as well as the rest of his family."

Proudfoot won two Grey Cups in Montreal (1977 and 1979) and was the colour commentator for radio station CJAD when the team returned to the CFL in 1996. He retired in 2007 after being diagnosed with the terminal illness.

He became a guest coach and special consultant in 2008 when Marc Trestman was hired as head coach.

"Tony was obviously a very smart man who loved the Alouettes and most definitely the CFL," said Trestman. "Over our three years together, I can honestly say we became better coaches, players, and a team, because of him. Through Tony, we were able to grow as people and better prioritize what is truly important in life, like family and friends."

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon also remembered the former Dawson College educator, who taught at the Montreal school for 30 years.

"Tony Proudfoot was a proud Montreal Alouette, who wore his passion for the team on a red, white and blue sleeve," he said. "But he was admired by people right across our league, regardless of where they lived, which team they pull for, or what colours they wear.

"Tony Proudfoot loved the game of Canadian football with all his heart. But the respect he first earned on the gridiron grew and grew until it transcended the sport.

"Tony Proudfoot was a teacher and mentor who helped many of us -- students, athletes, even coaches -- grow up. But what we ultimately learned from him is that you can grow physically weak and frail and yet remain incredibly strong and resilient. To know him was to know character. To see him battle was to witness courage. And to watch him interact with his wife and family, as I did when our league honoured him a few weeks ago, is to see what love looks like. The very first gift he gave our league, back in his playing days, was a display of athleticism. But the final gift he gave us was a lesson in humanity. And that may well be his most lasting legacy."

Proudfoot also wrote about his condition in the Montreal Gazette, penning his farewell on Dec. 15.

"Why has ALS come into my life?" he wrote. "What can I do with my body as it slowly deteriorates? When will my time actually be, given that ALS is a definitive death sentence? These are all thoughts that come to mind.

"Focusing on my next breath requires all of my energy. I am starved of air and oxygen and need to rely on a ventilator just to feel stable, just to live. I am now on my ventilator up to 22 hours per day, often going off one, to walk slowly to another room to attach myself to another."

He reflected on his life and accepted his dying fate at the end of the column.

"Goodbyes are never easy, in my case they have been the hardest. But I'm working my way through them with the deepest, heartfelt thanks I can muster."

On a more infamous note, Proudfoot was at Dawson College in 2006 when a man started shooting at students. During the ordeal, which left one person dead and 19 injured, he tended to a male student who had been shot in the head before medical help arrived. He later survived.

Funeral details will be made public in the next few days.


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