Gunnin' for No. 1

CHAD SCARSBROOK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

There's been a lot of history at Maroons Road over the years.

From Grey Cup triumphs to the shattering of CFL records, Canad Inns Stadium -- and previously Winnipeg Stadium -- has been home to plenty of memories.

Tonight, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hope to add another unforgettable milestone in this, the 54th year of the building.

Milt Stegall's 137 career CFL touchdowns have him tied with George Reed and Mike Pringle for the all-time lead after last week's sensational major against Edmonton that sent the game into overtime. Tonight, an end zone grab versus the Montreal Alouettes in Winnipeg's home opener would give the 37-year-old No. 138 -- and CFL immortality.

But despite the significance of the situation, the slotback says he hasn't given it much thought.

"When you're winning, helping your team win, it means a little bit more but I really haven't sat down and thought about it," said Stegall.

"I won't say it hasn't meant anything but for me to sit down and think about it, I really haven't gotten to that point yet.

"Maybe when it's all said and done and I retire, when I'm at home sitting in my rocking chair, maybe I'll think about it then."

Since Stegall's first touchdown with the Bombers back in 1995, the CFL club has gone 94-121 and had three winning seasons in those 12 years. A Grey Cup appearance was sprinkled in after a 14-4 campaign in 2001. The chance of another trip to the Cup was the driving force behind the Turtle Man's decision to return for his 13th season.

"Me and my wife we talked about it and she asked me why I wanted to come back and I felt it was a great opportunity to win a Grey Cup," the six-foot, 185-pounder said.

"If I didn't think we had a chance to win a Grey Cup, there was no need for me to come back. My wife and son have sacrificed a lot. It's fortunate that my mother comes down and helps my wife with our son and everything he has going on. If all those things weren't in place there would be no way I could come back."

Having been a member of one team during his CFL career has also been special for Stegall.

"I've had a couple opportunities to go some other places but this has always been my first and really my only option of where I want to be because this is a great team, a great organization and a true football city," he said.

Stegall played three years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals before being released in 1995. The man who would later be known as the Touchdown Beagle scored one major south of the border. After he was a late cut by Green Bay in 1995, Stegall's agent suggested Canada.

"I'd never heard of Winnipeg or the Blue Bombers but had heard about the CFL," said Stegall. "Now and then they would show a game on ESPN2 or 3 early in the morning. I decided to give it a shot and I've been here for 13 years now."

That wasn't Stegall's original plan. He thought he'd stick around for a few years, put up some big numbers and head back to the NFL. That actually may have been the case if Stegall hadn't torn his MCL during a 1998 training camp with the New Orleans Saints.

"It was almost kind of like a good thing," he said. "It's been a great opportunity for me up here playing football. I love this city and love this organization. Nobody as a youngster in America thinks about playing football in the CFL -- most of them never heard of it -- but it gave me another opportunity to continue my career as a football player."

And don't say Stegall wasn't given a significant shot to make his mark down south.

"I had a shot," he said. "I played three years with the Bengals and I got another shot in New Orleans. That's more of a shot than 99% of people in this world. I can say I played in the NFL.

"Playing in the CFL, I'm not disappointed at all with everything that's gone on in my football career. It's been an ideal career and I wouldn't change it for anything."

But if he could change something, he'd likely address the amount of rings on his fingers. Stegall hasn't won a football championship since he was "11 or 12 years old."

"In my last year of college (with Miami of Ohio), we won a conference track meet but no championships," he said.

A Grey Cup win would give him that first professional championship and top off his Hall of Fame career.

"A lot of guys create individual goals -- they wanna catch so many passes or make so many tackles but when it's all said and done this is a team game and the ultimate goal is to win a championship," said Stegall. "A lot of guys have put up big numbers -- and I've done it before -- and not win a championship. It's not fulfilling."

So how does this year's edition of the Big Blue compare to others over the years?

"At the end of the year you ask me that question, I'll let you know," said Stegall. "On paper we compare. We can go up against any team. So far, on paper, this is the best. But you don't play on paper, you play on grass or turf."

In addition to the record chase, Stegall and the Bombers also have the not-so-small task of beating the Alouettes. The Als strolled into Winnipeg and won both contests at CanadInns Stadium last year -- 44-16 in July and 23-20 in September.

The last time the Bombers beat the Als in Winnipeg, it was a 51-46 shootout in 2005.


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