Milt's good

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

Why is Milt Stegall great?

Let us count the ways.

Actually, let's have three CFLers who have had front-row seats to the Stegall Show do that for us.

Defensive backs Anthony Malbrough, Kelly Malveaux and Omar Evans share the distinction of having played against -- and with -- the Winnipeg Blue Bombers star slotback.

They got to know his best moves the hard way, and now they have the luxury of practising against him every day as members of the Blue and Gold secondary.

So here are their first-hand testimonials about arguably the greatest receiver in CFL history, a surefire Hall of Famer and the league's soon-to-be all-time touchdown leader:

THE DEAD LEG

Some receivers have been faster, some have been taller, some have been stronger, and some have had better hands.

None, however, has had the smarts that Stegall possesses. No matter how much you study him, he always has a trick up his sleeve.

"He's definitely crafty, he knows how to get open, he hits you with the dead leg here and there, he can run by you, and he can bully you if he has to," said Malveaux, who spent his previous six CFL seasons in Saskatchewan, Calgary and Montreal. "He just has so many things in his arsenal that make him good."

The dead leg gets the youngsters every time. Stegall will drag one leg as he runs toward the line of scrimmage, and the poor DB thinks that the old man is not well. The next thing they know, Stegall is celebrating a touchdown.

Speaking of that, what's Tony Tiller up to these days?

"The thing about it, man, is his craftiness," said Malbrough, who spent the past four seasons trying to be Stegall's shadow in Calgary and Ottawa. "You can't replace that with anything. I can't even describe it. You have to see us out there when it's a personal battle, like mentally and physically.

"The thing about it is you feel like he's not faster than you, but for some reason he's always getting behind you."

Evans, never one to mince words, got right to the point.

"However you want to put it, it's hard. Hard as hell," he said when asked about covering Turtle Man. "... He's going to catch everything even when you have good coverage, and it's hard to get mad at him because he's a good guy."

COINCIDENCE? OMAR THINKS NOT

Take a look at the CFL's top three receivers right now, and there's an obvious connection.

There's Stegall in second place, and the other two are his former teammates -- B.C.'s Geroy Simon (first) and Toronto's Arland Bruce (third).

"Look at the people that he's taught -- Geroy Simon, that's No. 2. Hands down. There's no question," Evans said. "No. 1 is Milt and No. 2 is Geroy."

A LIVING LEGEND FOR A REASON

Stegall has the talent and the brains, but hard work is the reason why he has been so good for so long.

His dedication to the sport would make most drill sergeants drop and give him 20. Even though Stegall claims to be 36 years old, no Bomber has a better physique.

When the rest of his teammates are shooting the bull in the locker-room or on the sidelines before practice, Stegall is running the length of the football field -- both forward and backward -- repeatedly.

And what his teammates don't see are the hundreds of sit-ups and pushups he does daily.

It's not just the physical devotion that separates him, however, as Malveaux believes no one is more mentally prepared than Stegall.

"It's all about knowing where you need to be at the right time," Malveaux said. "No matter who his quarterback has been over the years, he always knows how to get into that place.

"They must go out and have dinner a couple times a year, and he must let them know that 'OK, if someone's doing this to me, I'm doing that.' And that's a missing art for receivers and quarterbacks. You have to have that kind of chemistry."

HEY, I CAN BE A SOMEBODY!

If you can't beat Stegall, join him.

That's one of the job perks of becoming a Bomber defensive back: not having to cover him in front of 30,000 people and a live national television audience.

Not only that, but you get to practise against him daily, which can only help your skills.

"I feel like I'm the best DB that's out there this year, just because of how many times I went against him in camp and every day I'm learning new things from him," Malbrough said. "So when I'm going up against other receivers, I feel like it's nothing. I feel like I'm no doubt going to stop them, because, hey, I've made plays on Milt.

"And I've seen guys not able to make plays on Milt, so that gives me confidence.

"... It takes you to the ultimate level of wanting to play. Nobody ever does that to me. I study guys, I prepare for guys, but not like in the seriousness that it would take for me to get ready for Milt though."

AH, MEMORIES

Defensive backs are supposed to have the shortest memories of all football players, but these three all remember when Stegall got them good.

They'll be able to tell their grandchildren that Stegall beat them for a touchdown. It will be cool one day.

Malveaux is perhaps Stegall's most famous victim, because he pulled a Sharpie out of his sock during a 2002 game and signed the ball - a la Terrell Owens - after believing he had an interception in the end zone.

The officials, however, ruled that Stegall earned possession because both he and Malveaux had their hands on the ball at the same time.

"That was one of the touchdowns that he scored against me," Malveaux said. "I thought I had an interception, but the tie goes to the runner.

"For the most part we've just have solid games against one another."

Evans easily recalls a game against the Bombers during his rookie year in 2001 with the Roughriders. Even though it didn't go for a score, it was vintage Milt making a rookie look foolish.

"I thought I had him," Evans said. "He made me think it was a corner route, and he put his hand up. And when he put his hand up I turned and looked for the ball and he went the other way.

"Ever since then I ain't liked his ass."


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