Stegall in the zone

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Milt Stegall is about to become the CFL's greatest receiver of all time.

It depends on how you measure a receiver, of course, but he will soon make history nonetheless.

It may not happen tonight when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Ottawa Renegades at Canad Inns Stadium (7:30 p.m., CJOB), or it may not happen for a few weeks, but it's bound to occur.

Stegall needs only four receiving touchdowns to pass the great Allen Pitts, who hauled in an all-time-best 117 majors during his illustrious 11-year career with the Calgary Stampeders from 1990 to 2000.

Since Stegall has three majors by other means, he is tied with Pitts for third on the CFL's all-time touchdown list, just 20 scores behind George Reed and Mike Pringle.

Stegall, an 11-year CFL veteran who has played only for the Bombers, took a rare moment yesterday to pat himself on the back.

"It means I've been here for a long time," said Stegall, who is on a four-game touchdown streak. "Man, that says a lot. You know I'm not one to blow smoke up my ... you know me, I'm a humble guy. But I gotta give some credit to myself."

The 35-year-old is eighth on the CFL's all-time reception list, which makes his impending record all the more impressive. He won't, however, compare himself to Pitts.

HE'S THE GREATEST

"I saw Allen Pitts play for a long time, and some of the things he did were with three or four guys on him. He's the greatest," Stegall said. "I'm gonna say I'm second.

"I'm better than Darren Flutie," he added with a laugh. "Forget him."

Bombers head coach Jim Daley, who coached Pitts in Calgary, had nothing but glowing words for Stegall yesterday.

"There's a point in time where age catches up with all good players, but ... I'm not too sure of too many guys who have fought it back as well as Milt and remained productive," Daley said.

Stegall, who is signed until the end of next season, has kept himself in tip-top shape and is always claiming to the coaching staff that he's the fittest player on the team.

"He's probably, in that case, not lying," Daley said. "He is (lying) about his age."

SIPPED FROM THE GREY CUP

One of the primary reasons Stegall won't put himself in Pitts' class is because one of them has sipped from the Grey Cup, and the other one hasn't.

"He has some rings," Stegall said. "You can't be classified as the greatest until you get some Grey Cup rings. That's the way I look at it. Like Dan Marino. He's not the greatest. He doesn't have any championships."

Speaking of championships, the Bombers are a long way from one right now with a 2-6 record. The Renegades are in first place in the East Division with a 5-3 mark and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Bombers, who have won two straight at home, must make it three in a row if they're going to make any sort of run this season.

In fact, the Bombers need a win tonight to stay two points out of West Division playoff spot, as the Stampeders improved to 4-4 last night with a 40-37 triumph over the Montreal Alouettes.

It's almost as if tonight's game is Winnipeg's fork in the road for the 2005 season.

Win, and they will have some great vibes going into Hamilton (0-7) next week before a home-and-home series with the reeling Roughriders (3-5).

Lose, and their confidence will be as shattered as Pitts' touchdown record is about to become.

"When we're 2-6, the only thing that means anything anymore is winning," Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown said. "You can't even contemplate what happens taking steps backwards.

"Winning right now is the only thing that's paramount to turning this around."


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