Pinball bounces to top

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Spend just a slice of time around Michael (Pinball) Clemons and you see and hear a man who defines himself by much more than what he does in football.

He is a devout father and family man. Some say he's a future politician. And unquestionably, the now former Argos coach is a man of action in his community.

Clemons will take all of those titles along with his newest one, yesterday's appointment as the CFL team's new chief executive officer.

And while he ultimately wants to be remembered as more than a football lifer, Clemons also recognizes it has been the game that has given him the voice to achieve more.

"We have to understand that we've been given a platform (from football)," Clemons said yesterday when he finally confirmed he is stepping down as coach to become the team's most senior executive.

"We also need to understand that winning games and winning Grey Cups helps validate that message. The two are inextricably linked. We need to be competent as an organization in order to validate our message in the community."

Clemons' transition from sideline to suit has, in fact, been in the planning stages for more than two years.

His appointment yesterday, along with Toronto Rock co-owner Brad Watters as chief operating officer, is designed to continue the momentum established by Keith Pelley, who left as team president this past week.

In making the announcement, Argos co-owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski made it clear that they aren't just hiring a man to be the face of the Argos -- though Clemons will do that with flair as well.

"(Clemons') role is pretty much straight forward," Cynamon said. "He is the leader, the head coach, the quarterback -- whatever you want to call it -- of the entire Toronto Argonaut organization."

In other words, Watters, vice-president/general manager Adam Rita and everyone else in the club will answer to the man they call Pinball.

In introducing Clemons, Cynamon made sure to point out that his new CEO studied economics in college and had an MBA in his vision before football got in the way.

"I didn't think when I was going to William and Mary that I was going to be a football player, I thought I was going to be in business," Clemons said. "This is kind of where I thought my life would be 20 years ago. I'm a late bloomer."

He's much more than that in the eyes of ownership, which wanted to make sure they didn't lose him. Clemons admitted yesterday that he had opportunities in business, entertainment and politics.

"I think he'd be a great mayor, he'd be great at anything he chose to do," Sokolowski said. "He's that skilled, he's that intelligent and obviously that nice.

"I think the world is waiting for Michael to choose whatever he wants. Right now we're thrilled he's with us."

Before taking the position, Clemons' first mental hurdle was to make sure coaching was out of his blood, something he says was difficult given the way the season ended.

The next was to turn the other cheek to what in his words were "lucrative opportunities."

Ultimately though, what kept him in Double Blue is what attracted him to the players he coached in the first place.

"Having the opportunity on a daily basis to help build the lives of young men, trying to help them become better husbands, better fathers and better community men," Clemons said. "And also showing them that in life you can consistently win if you work hard and have vision.

"This is where my heart is. Ultimately I stayed home."


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