An honour for Big Z

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:29 PM ET

Zenon Andrusyshyn was a Bandit long before he became ordained by the Southern Baptist Church in Nashville in 1991. A Tampa Bay Bandit of the defunct United States Football League, that is.

The Bandits were a team that was owned by the late Johnny F. Bassett and lasted three years before the league folded. Bassett, who also owned the Memphis Southmen, with Leo Cahill at the helm, passed away a few years ago.

The Big Z, an Argos kicker during the 1970s and early '80s who also played for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL in '78, will be inducted into the Oakville Sports Hall of Fame next Thursday.

"I'm really looking forward to the affair," said Andrusyshyn, who once punted the football ball a CFL- record 108 yards against the Eskimos in Edmonton, bettering the 102 of another former Argos standout, Dave Mann. "You may not be aware of it, but three NFL kickers hail from Oakville. Besides me, there's Steve Christie of the Buffalo Bills and Mike Vanderjagt of the Indianapolis Colts."

The Big Z was born in a refugee camp in Germany after the Second World War before the family emigrated to Canada.

In 1995, Andrusyshyn graduated from the Dallas Theological Seminar and is now Master of Biblical Studies. The former all-American at UCLA became area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for the west coast of Florida.

He now lives near Tampa and looks after the souls of the Tampa Bay Lightning players. He was also chaplain of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team.

Big Z's football record speaks for itself. The numbers he produced during his 10-year Argos career places him second to Hank Ilesic with 1,249 punts and 56,458 yards.

But the Big Z has never strayed away from other sports either. He closely follows the NHL -- in spite of its current labour dilemma -- and has been particularly distraught by the lockout, which affects the emotional state of the Stanley Cup-champion Lightning players, his flock.

"It's sad, it's terrible, it's awful," Big Z said when told that the NHL season may be officially cancelled early this week by commissioner Gary Bettman.

"I'm not blaming either side," he said. "But I feel sorry for the fans and the people who have lost their jobs because of the lockout. Surely, there must be a way to straighten out this problem."

Andrusyshyn is also monitoring the future of his two children -- Zurie, 23, and Zoe, 25. Zurie has his own web design company, while his sister is a well-known concert violinist. In fact, she played at one of last week's pre-Super Bowl affairs in Jacksonville.As for the Big Z and his wife, Sue, they are dedicated to their religious calling.

After all, it's only right that a former Bandit and his mate follow the path that has been designated for them.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Olympic gold-medallist Donovan Bailey and former world figure skating champion Maria Jelinek will attend the Oakville ceremonies, which also will include the inductions of paddler John Wood, swimmer Melanie McKay, freestyle skier Meredith Gardner, taekwondo's Mike Morningstar and, posthumously, track ace and baseball star Ollie Johnson ... Speaking of figure skating, Canada's former queen of the blades -- Barbara Ann Scott King -- last week celebrated the 57th anniversary of her gold medal-winning triumph at the 1948 Olympic Games in St.Moritz, Switzerland. That same year, Canada's RCAF Flyers hockey team won Olympic gold. Several members of that famed hockey team are still around, including George Mara, a former member of the Toronto Maple Leafs Silver Seven management group and president of the defunct Olympic Trust ... I wonder what is happening with the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall was scheduled to move from the CNE to Ottawa, but former prime minister and golf ball juggler Jean Chretien shot down the idea. Senator Trevor Eyton has been trying to save the Hall, but so far the project is in limbo and the senator hasn't made any optimistic statements.


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