Because the Canadian Football Hall of Fame festivities were moved to Winnipeg for the first time, Blue Bombers legend Bud Grant witnessed the unveiling of the busts for the first time.
The former Bomber head coach/GM/player was inducted into the Hamilton-based hall years ago, but never made it. He was on hand to welcome the five latest inductees during a luncheon at the McPhillips Street Station Casino yesterday.
"I've never been to Hamilton because they always have it in September or October," said Grant, who missed his own induction because it conflicted with duck hunting season. "I was glad to hear it'd come up here and I was glad when they invited me. I was thrilled because it gave me another excuse to get to Winnipeg and renew old friendships ...
"It's a boost to football. It gives everybody in the West to see what it's all about. It's quite an honour, you know. All the games you win and all the accolades and the records you set don't mean a thing. But going into the hall of fame, they can't take that away from you ... you're in there forever. It's probably one of the finest tributes you can have."
Inductees whose busts were unveiled were linebacker Alondra Johnson, defensive tackle Glen Weir, offensive linemen Jim Mills and Rudy Phillips and builder Tony Anselmo.
"It's an honour," said Johnson, who won three Grey Cups. "It's an elite class. I just feel so blessed and privileged. When I started as a rookie in '89, I never expected all of this. It's just amazing to go into an elite club like this and to be honoured ... This is my final reward. I'm overwhelmed."
Johnson played for B.C., Calgary and Saskatchewan from 1989 to 2004, enjoying his greatest success as a fierce linebacker for the Stampeders from 1991-2003.
"I wanted people to fear me," said Johnson, 44. "That was my whole motivation. That's why I chose No. 51 -- because of guys like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary -- those were the guys I looked up to and idolized as a youngster."
Weir, 58, won two Grey Cups in five trips, all with the Montreal Alouettes.
"There's no words to explain it," said the London, Ont., native. "You can use any analogy you want and it's not going to be enough."
Weir was then asked what went through his mind when he saw his bust.
"It's a head on a stick," he joked. "I just wish they'd do it when we were younger. I was a movie star when I was younger. Now I'm just an old, fat guy."
Phillips, 51, played for Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary, winning the Grey Cup with Edmonton in 1987.
"Man, words can't express how I feel," he said. "I'm just humbled and honoured to be a part of it."
Mills, 48, played for both B.C. and Ottawa.
"It's hard to believe for me," he said. "It's a dream-come-true, especially here in Winnipeg. I was lucky enough to be here (as a Schenley nominee) in '91 with the Grey Cup festivities. It was a great time then and I knew Winnipeg would do it up and it's been great here."
Anselmo, 91, helped raise $34 million for improvements to McMahon Stadium in Calgary and the founder of the Stamps' Wall of Fame.
All five inductees, as well as a number of former Bomber inductees will be available for an autograph session before tonight's CFL Hall of Fame Game between the Bombers and Toronto Argonauts (south end zone) at Canad Inns Stadium.