Clemons is humble in face of history

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

He is on the verge of making professional football history in North America, but Pinball Clemons wants the focus to be more on his team than himself.

When the Argos line up against the B.C. Lions on Sunday in the Grey Cup, Clemons will become the first black head coach in the 68-year history of the Canadian Football League's championship game.

In fact, he will become the first black head coach in a North American professional football league championship game if you include the Super Bowl.

"Does it matter to me?" Clemons said yesterday in an interview with The Toronto Sun.

"It matters to me that the guys are in the Cup. The historical part of that, I don't know if that's good or bad, to tell you the truth. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing to be the first guy. And being the guy is an unfair representation of what it takes to be here because when you're called the guy, it assumes like in stock car racing that you're the guy behind the wheel driving the car and I'm really not.

"The majority of my staff is anything other than African-American. Half of the players would fit in the same category and more than anything it's the players who get the job done. We coaches just try to stay out of the way."

Clemons is the second black head coach in Argos history. Willie Wood broke the barrier when he was hired in 1980 and coached for 1 1/2 seasons. Clemons' first tenure as coach came eight games into the 2000 season. He has been on the job the past three seasons.

Clemons and Saskatchewan's Danny Barrett made history two years ago by becoming the first black head coaches to meet in the CFL playoffs.

Had Saskatchewan beaten B.C. on Sunday in the West Division final -- the Lions won 27-25 in overtime -- Barrett would have opposed Clemons in the Grey Cup.

"What I don't want to do is marginalize progress if you will," Clemons said. "But I can truly say it's not me. I'm not the reason we are here. I happen to be the guy who has this position of head coach just like we have guys who are in a position of centre and wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback.

"It is a team effort. I think that you could very easily say that there have been many situations in which African-Americans and other minorities have been the major reason why a team has been in a championship game.

"In this situation I'm not the major reason."


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