Holloway, Greer sure left their mark on the CFL

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Condredge Holloway's first love was baseball.

Terry Greer lived to play basketball.

So, of course, they wound up becoming two of the greatest football players ever to grace a Argonauts locker room. Both were back in town yesterday to be introduced as the Argos' nominee in the CFL's Greatest Quarterback/Receiver Combination contest. In five seasons between 1981 and '85 they made more connections than Ma Bell.

They combined for 219 receptions, 3,791 yards, 27 touchdowns and between them own five Grey Cup and Super Bowl rings. Not bad for a couple of moonlighters.

"I didn't dislike football but if I'd been allowed to chose it would've been baseball," says Holloway, now 50.

He's having the soup. Considering this is all a promotion for cholesterol awareness, it means he still knows how to score points. Greer is having a wrap -- so they don't always think alike. It just seemed like it when they were on a football field.

"There were guys in Oakland who hated each other and they won because they did it for the money. (In the CFL) the salaries weren't high enough that guys could do that. To play here you had to enjoy what you were doing," Holloway says. "We hung out together off the field. We sweated. We learned football ... we ate dinner together, we went to birthday parties together. We knew each other as more than players. That speaks volumes on fourth-quarter drives because you trust each other."

Adds Greer: "Sometimes I knew he was going to throw the ball to me before he knew he was going to throw it."

It might never have happened had Condredge's mom not insisted he go to college. It was 1971 and Holloway was a first-round pick out of Huntsville, Ala., and former Expos scouts still regard him as the best shortstop they ever selected.

"My mother wouldn't sign the contract or I would've gone. But I was 16 and in Alabama you had to be 21 to sign a contract."

The Argonauts, and football, should be forever grateful to mom -- even if Holloway isn't so certain. "If I hadn't played football I'd have been in Montreal playing baseball. I'd be a lot healthier. I'd have played longer, probably made more money. To me baseball was the best sport in the world."

Instead, between now and the 94th Grey Cup game Nov. 19, fans will have a chance to vote him and Greer as the best pitch-and-catch combo in CFL history. Other nominees include the Eskimos' Warren Moon and Brian Kelly, or maybe you're partial to the Saskatchewan tandem of Hugh Campbell and Ron Lancaster. See www.cfl.ca/makingtheconnection.

Greer says he's "honoured" to be in such company "but in high school I loved basketball. But when I got (to Alabama State) I got homesick after football and wanted to go home for Christmas holidays. They kept after me ... but I just played intramural. I'm not sure if I'd played if I could've played pro."

Another path untaken. Another CFL legend in the making. Greer became the game's dominant receiver -- the first in pro football to surpass 2,000 yards. It remains his shining moment.

"What made it so great was my teammates. It actually caught me off guard. What stands out is when I caught the ball to break 2,000 I looked to the sidelines and it was empty; they were all on the field and lifted me on their shoulders. It was so unexpected. I was happy because they were so happy."

Tonight, at the Argos' game with B.C., the two will be honoured for the joy they brought to a championship-starved city in 1983. Holloway and Greer lifted the Argos, who were a joke -- "What's blue, has 68 legs and lives in a cellar?" -- and made them more than a punchline.

Battered, Holloway retired five years later and never once considered a Jordanesque return.

"You have to have the mentality that you don't mind being hit. You have to make up your mind that 'I will stand there! I will throw the ball and they can go all around my knees and ankles and I will blank that out.' Once you start peeking you're finished. And I was peeking."

Theirs was a combination that a generation earlier couldn't have happened. Holloway grew up in the era when black players were considered unsuitable as quarterbacks. Ask Holloway his career highlight and it isn't a Grey Cup and it isn't his Hall of Fame election.

"It's the day (University of Tennessee) coach (Bill) Battle told me I could play quarterback," he says. "I was the first black quarterback in the SEC. I had a plan. I wasn't going anywhere unless they let me play quarterback."

Holloway might've gone to the NFL -- not that it would've made a lot of difference financially back then.

"Ronnie Lott told me that in 1980 he made $40,000," Greer says of his former 49ers teammate.

The Patriots wanted to turn Holloway into a defensive back.

"Nope," Holloway says, when asked if they even looked at him as a quarterback.

Don't think it doesn't still rankle.

"Are we going to make this a Martin Luther King article, or what?" he growls.

Ah, yes, the old Holloway. He always was good at calling an audible when he wanted to change the flow of, um, the game.


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