True Blue leader

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:58 AM ET

Milt Stegall was sitting on his stool in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker-room a few weeks ago when a nearby teammate yelled the F-word.

"Hey!" the slotback said sternly, but not too loudly, without turning to look at the offending party.

The cussing stopped.

Stegall, 35, doesn't cuss. He doesn't drink or smoke, either.

He goes to bed early, and when he feels like celebrating, he adds a little extra sugar to his favourite drink -- orange juice on the rocks.

Stegall talks, people listen

He's well-respected, just as the swearing incident a few weeks ago shows. He's not a vocal leader in the locker-room, but when he talks, people listen.

Don't, however, get the impression that Stegall is mute. That couldn't be further from the truth.

He leads the team when it comes to poking fun at the media, talking about how talented his son Chase is or letting the world know just how darn good looking he is.

It doesn't come across as arrogance, but charisma. The media horde invariably drifts towards Stegall's stall to chat about whatever is on the agenda.

Stegall has a reputation for being cheap, but frugal is likely a more accurate description. And he's generous. He seems to have an affinity for rookies, who show up year after year trying to take his job away from him.

"If they want to go out and eat every now and then, I'll give them some money to do that or whatever," Stegall said. "I've been given a lot in my entire life, and I've been put in some good positions my entire life, so I don't mind giving back at all."

Stegall's thankful, generous and hard-working ways can be traced back to his childhood, where he grew up thinking his parents were the richest people in the world.

"We had so much!" Stegall exclaimed.

Turns out his parents, Garland and Betty, were busting their tails behind the scenes to provide a wonderful environment for their children.

Garland had some real estate, and he built a grocery store from the ground up. Yet he always found the time to attend his son's sporting events. Betty went to nursing school.

"Everything I do in life, I try to do to the best of my ability, because that's what my parents did," Stegall said. "Neither one of them had college educations, but they were able to put -- besides myself -- my two older brothers and two older sisters through college."

That unquenchable work ethic, along with God-given talent, will take Stegall to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame one day, but retirement just wouldn't look good on him right now.

Just when it appeared he was in the twilight of his career (he had just six touchdown receptions in 2004) Stegall has stormed back onto the scene in 2005.

He leads the CFL with 12 touchdown catches in 13 games and his 20.5-yard average per grab is tops in the league. One in every four of his receptions is for touchdown.

"The thing back in 2002 and even 2001 is Khari (Jones) and I had somewhat learned each other," Stegall said. "And Kevin (Glenn) is getting to that point now, where he knows that most of the time Milt Stegall is going to run an opposite route when a play is called!

"We're definitely not at the point that myself and Khari were at, because we played together so long, but Kevin, he's able to read me."

The Bombers, however, are about to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the 11 seasons Stegall has been with the franchise. And that's tough on the CFL's all-time leader in touchdown receptions, because the only thing he wants is a Grey Cup ring, yet it's one of the few things he doesn't have.

For someone who lives his life so right, his football seasons always turn out so wrong.

It's almost enough to make a man swear.

Almost.


Videos

Photos