Magic Milt moment

TED WYMAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

For a full year now Winnipeg football fans have been anticipating the day when Milt Stegall takes his rightful place as the greatest receiver in CFL history, and it appears that day is upon us.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Stegall tied the all-time touchdown record of 137 held by George Reed and Mike Pringle last week in Edmonton, showing a flair for the dramatic by hauling in a major in the final minute to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Now Stegall, a Bomber for life who has provided so many great moments for the Winnipeg fans, has a chance to pass those two legends on his home field, in front of friends, family and adoring fans.

He got a standing ovation last week in Edmonton. They might have to nominate him for sainthood if he takes one to the house this week against Montreal.

Of course, we don't mean that seriously, but if there were a football version of that holy honour, Stegall would most certainly be worthy in the eyes of Winnipeg fans and the players who have shared a field and locker-room with him over the years.

"He's a great influence on everybody who comes in this room," said Canadian receiver Jamie Stoddard. "He's basically the team father, and everybody is better off from being around him."

The kind of impact Stegall has made on his teammates makes his record pursuit even more special because there's a room full of men who are longing to revel in glory with him.

"It's a great feeling to share this moment ... one of the best moments to happen in the CFL, and I'm glad I'm a part of it," said fellow import receiver Derick Armstrong. "As a receiver he's a great teammate, a guy who always pushes the other players to be better. He's a classy guy who goes about his business and works hard. We're very happy for him to have the opportunity to get the record at home."

Injuries prevented Stegall from setting the mark last season, but since he continues to perform at an elite level, it was a no-brainer for him to come back for one more year.

His return prompted others to make a similar decision.

"I was a free agent during the off-season and I said 'Man, I can't go anywhere,' " said defensive back Anthony Malbrough. "I don't want to be the guy on the highlight reel when he breaks the record."

One hundred and thirty seven times in his glorious career Stegall has celebrated a visit to a CFL end zone. Some people call it his office, which is fitting because he is the most businesslike player you will ever see.

"The biggest thing is his work ethic," Malbrough said. "He's willing to come in every day and strap it on at the highest level. More than anything he comes to play every day, no matter what it is. It could be walkthrough, it could be practice, it could be an exhibition game. I think that's what makes guys great."

While he is famous for considering himself the prettiest man on the planet -- at least that's part of his public persona -- Stegall has a humble side and has always maintained that individual stats pale in comparison to team success.

"I think Milt would have quit ages ago if he had won a Grey Cup," said Stoddard. "The lure of a Grey Cup and a good football team in Winnipeg is what brings him back, not the record."

It's no stretch to believe he would trade this record for a championship in a heartbeat, although in the long run he will certainly look back at his accomplishment with utmost pride.

"He cares (about the record)," Armstrong said. "But he tries not to think about it too much. We all care and want to see him do it."

This impending historic moment has been hovering around the Bombers for quite some time now, and while nobody suggests it has been a distraction, everyone would like to get it out of the way.

"The sooner he accomplishes it the better," said Bombers head coach Doug Berry. "He wants to get it done so we can stop talking about it and so do I."

That being said, Berry will be as happy as anyone when Stegall takes over possession of first place on the all-time list.

"It's a big record, and it's one that most of the time goes to the running backs who score a lot of short touchdowns," Berry said. "For a receiver to be challenging is quite an impressive honour for Milt, there's no doubt about that."

It's an honour shared by the thousands of fans who have been with Stegall every step of the way.

"It's something the whole city can take pride in," Stoddard said.

That pride will be on display tomorrow night.


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