The search for Mel Profit began a few months back, a search most thought was fruitless.
Profit, the long-haired Argo star, author, actor, tight end, broadcaster and celebrity, was larger than life in his time in Toronto, back in the late 1960s, early '70s. And then he became a television episode of sorts, disappearing without a trace.
All the old Argos told Jonathan Rubinoff he wouldn't find him. They didn't know where he was, hadn't heard from him in years.
But Rubinoff, whose job was to contact Argos alumni nominated for the All-Time team that is to be announced this weekend, was motivated by the challenge. He used the Internet to begin searching out Profits across America and began phoning. He made one call after another.
And then he connected with a young woman in New Jersey. She said she was Profit's great niece. She contacted her father. He contacted his uncle. The connection was made.
Mel Profit arrives in Toronto today, 36 years after his last game of Canadian football, having been here just once since he stopped being a celebrity, a little nervous for the trip down memory lane, a lot excited, the old football feelings coming back at the ripe old age of 66.
Profit arrives not completely understanding there is still a magic to his name, how he and the Argos of that time, represent the most popular Toronto team to never win anything -- and maybe the most revered.
"I never thought of myself as a hippie and never thought of myself as a celebrity, I just thought of myself as a football player," Profit said.
"Because I had long hair and because I was a guy from California, that's how people thought of me. If all the fans in Toronto had taken a trip to California then and visited, they would have seen that just about everybody else looked like me too.
"I was just a football player for the Toronto Argonauts, playing with the greatest group of guys, the greatest group of talent and characters I'd ever been around."
Maybe that's the rub with that Argo team, why we can't let them go. The personalities are all but gone from today's game, replaced in Profit's own words by "the comedy act" of the modern athlete.
The Argos had Profit and Tricky Dick Thornton and Bobby Taylor and Bill Symons and Marv Luster and later Leon McQuay and Joe Theismann and so much more.
"A lot of it had to do with the time," Profit said. "We all came from different places and we took this us-against-the-world mentality. A bunch of rebels nobody wanted. The city was fairly conservative and we were a little more flamboyant."
"It had more to do with our time in history but we had great players. Bill Symons was the best player in the CFL. Marv Luster was best defensive player. We were a good team. We weren't a great team. You can't ever be told you're a great team if you don't win a championship. We didn't win a championship."
Only they were more popular than most Argo champions, with Profit being the most popular. And then he went wayward, didn't keep in touch, distanced himself from the game, the team, his past.
He didn't know, until I told him, that McQuay had died or that Harry Abofs killed himself. There was a few seconds of silence on the telephone.
"It's been a long time," said Profit.
A long time with so many turns, so much mystery. He has lived where the sun has taken him, to Southern California, to Northern California, to Arizona, and most recently Hawaii. "I don't think I remember all of it," he said. Sometimes he's sold real estate. Sometimes he's worked at Four Seasons properties, maintaining a Toronto tie to the founder, Isadore Sharp. This year he's travelling with Gail, his partner of the past 18 years, on sabbatical he says, seeing as much of the western and southern United States as possible.
"Wherever the sun shines, that's where it takes me," said Profit, who may not think of himself as a hippie but still sounds that way.
"What I said back then was what I felt. I didn't consider myself outspoken. I was emotionally tied to the Argonauts because they were pretty much my life for 10 years. Everything I said came from the heart."
Even his eventual ending.
At the beginning of training camp in 1972, coach Leo Cahill called Profit into his office. Cahill told him he had no place for an import at tight end, that he couldn't be an Argo anymore. "He said if I wanted to play on another team, to let him know and he'd arrange a trade.
"At the time, I said I'd think about it. That was the end. I didn't think about it. I had no interest in playing anywhere else."
For a time, he worked on radio in Toronto, on television, even made NFL picks for the Toronto Sun. And then he picked up and left. Without a trace.
"If it wasn't for the weather I never would have left," said Profit. "I loved the city to death. I loved the people. I just couldn't take the six months of winter."