Back up off the Matt

DAVE 'CRASH' CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

He was an opportunist as a player.

That was one of the traits that interested the Edmonton Eskimos in Matt Dunigan, who brought him to camp in 1983 to learn under Warren Moon.

It was one of the traits that saw him through 13 years of taking snaps in the Canadian Football League - through six teams, four Grey Cup appearances and two rings.

Two years ago, the quarterback-turned-TV-analyst saw an opportunity: to coach in the CFL.

On paper, his one-year stint with the Calgary Stampeders was a nightmare. For Dunigan, it was merely a reality.

"It was a little much," he said of eventually wearing three hats as general manager, head coach and offensive co-ordinator in his first, and only, season in charge.

"It's something you don't really worry about.

"They offered me the head coach and general manager (jobs). I was just expecting the head coach. And then the three kind of evolved out of necessity."

A learning experience?

"A lot more than that!

"A tremendous experience all the way around. Really felt good about the things we accomplished with the parameters we were working within.

"Would have liked to have had the opportunity to see it through."

It didn't happen.

Like his playing days, he came through the battering bruised but still kicking.

Now he'll be back in front of the cameras as part of TSN's football crew, back with cohorts Glen Suitor, Jock Climie, Chris Schultz and Dave Randorf (along with new play-by-play recruit Chris Cuthbert).

"I'm going to be the same person. My experience in Calgary this past year, I think, will only enhance my appreciation for those positions and give me a keener sense of understanding. And hopefully that will parlay into a more accurate vision for the fans."

WRIGHT STUFF: Results or not, Dunigan proved he was willing to face a challenge.

While Suitor said to me last year that he'd give the CFL commissioner's job a go, Dunigan is just as happy to be a broadcaster again and let Tom Wright handle the job.

"I think Tom's done a fabulous job," Dunigan said on the day that Wright would face the CFL board of governors.

"I just have positive things to say about Tom Wright and where he put this league. And I think we've been searching for a guy that could lead this league in a positive way ... And he's been able to do that.

"I don't see how we could improve on that."

Thankfully, the board made the, uh, Wright decision.

With the league - Ottawa notwithstanding - on the rebound, the board's waffling was strange.

"I feel exactly the same way. Things are on an upswing. Anticipation for the 2005 year is high," Dunigan said. "Just keep those things behind closed doors. Deal with things in a professional manner. And don't stir the pot. Everything has just been simmering and cooking just fine.

"That's my call."

An analyst again.

OPPORTUNITY: It was a time when the CFL had almost exclusive rights to the smaller, mobile quarterback. Despite breaking Terry Bradshaw's records at Louisiana Tech, Dunigan wasn't going to get a sniff in the NFL.

"They had a style of quarterback they were looking for that they felt fit their league's requirements."

Thanks in large part to Moon's subsequent success south of the border, that changed.

"So if you're saying it's more difficult now for the CFL to find their stereotypical athlete to play the position of quarterback, it's very true."

But Dunigan still likes what he sees here.

"You've got Henry (Burris) here (in Calgary), Spurgeon Wynn, Kevin Glenn; and then you go to B.C., Dave (Dickenson) and Casey (Printers). You go to Edmonton and I think there's a tremendous quarterback there in Jason Maas.

"Then you look at the guys that have won Grey Cups. You've got Danny Mac, Anthony Calvillo, you've got Damon."

Damon Allen. Another guy that the Eskimos brought to their quarterback factory shortly after Dunigan. Another guy out of the NFL's focus.

Dunigan never thought he'd be watching his No. 1A colleague still on the field.

"He is phenomenal. His longevity is, I think, his legacy. His ability to continue to do it year after year. It's tremendous what he asks his body to do year in, year out."

NUMBER UP: Allen has surpassed Ron Lancaster's all-time CFL numbers. Dunigan, traded from Edmonton to the West Coast the same year as a guy named Gretzky was, racked up a few of his own: Over 43,000 yards passing, over 3,000 completions.

And he still owns the record for single-game yardage with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The sad thing is there was probably about 900 out there to be taken. And I only got 713.

"That's the mentality you take. I underthrew Alfred Jackson a couple of times when he had guys beat."

But Dunigan doesn't dwell.

"That's almost 10 years behind me now," he said of his playing days. "I appreciate my opportunities. I attacked it as hard as I could for as long as I could and enjoyed my time.

"But it's so fleeting. My wife Kathy and I, we always knew it was like that and we tried to enjoy it wherever we were at.

"But you walk into my home you won't see a thing about my past in here. I don't have those trophy rooms like that. That's not me. I'm about being where you're at."


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